Mar 212012

There must be a million ways to cook chicken, but I had run out of ideas.

Does it have to do with so-called Senior Moments? I’m not sure I subscribe to that.

Maybe these cooking lapses happen occasionally to people who have all the responsibility for daily meals. Any chef I’ve asked says that when he’s home, his wife cooks dinner – or that he eats out after work, or gratefully puts his feet under his mother-in-law’s table.

Which cheered me up some. Here I am, along with the culinary big shots, suffering from Food Thinking Overload.

So I let someone else do the thinking for me. Strolling over to the kitchen cabinet where my cookbooks live, I  pulled out Claudia Rodin’s encyclopedic Book of Jewish Food. Leafing through the pages, I considered chicken with quinces and chicken with dates. Then this tempting, easy-looking recipe caught my eye: Sofrito.

As a Latin American, I identify sofrito as a mix of chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes, sometimes with bell peppers, all seasoned with cumin and ground coriander and fried in olive oil. It’s a flavor base for beans and many other dishes. But here the word is applied to a method that falls between frying and stewing. According to Ms. Rodin, “…cooking slowly in a mixture of oil and very little water….results in a taste and feel quite different from those of a stew.”

The seasonings, a  pungent/sharp mixture, were subtly and characteristically Sephardic. In fact, my mouth began to water, just standing there reading the recipe. So I made it, and here it is, just as good as I imagined. And easy, easy, easy.

Chicken Sofrito

Adapted from Claudia Rodin’s Book of Jewish Food

3-4 servings. Can be doubled or tripled.


2 halves of chicken breast

1 chicken thigh

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 crushed garlic cloves

Saffron, a good pinch

1/2 teaspoon grated galingale root or ginger

salt and white pepper

1 cup water

Put the water and all the seasonings in a large pot. Bring to a boil.

Add the chicken pieces.

Cover the pot and cook the chicken in the water mixture over the lowest heat. Turn it over once in a while to cook evenly.

When the chicken is tender – between 1 and 1-1/2 hours, remove it from the pot to a platter. Taste the sauce in the pot for seasoning and adjust if needed. Raise the heat and reduce the sauce until it’s thickened to your liking.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with roasted baby potatoes and greens. Or do the traditional thing and serve your sofrito with plain white rice.

Note: to double the recipe, cook one chicken, quartered. Double seasonings but add only 1/2 cup more water.


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  12 Responses to “Chicken Sofrito Recipe”

  1. With the caveat that my MIL is allergic to onions, garlic, leeks & the like & does not care for “spicy” (black pepper) food, I make this chicken dish for her:
    1/3 cup maple syrup (I plan on trying this with date syrup – eventually.)
    1 Tbsp olive oil
    2 Tbsp chopped rosemary, fresh or dried
    3 large chicken breasts, about 1.5 lb (I actually use thighs more often than not.)

    1. In a small bowl, add the maple syrup and the olive oil. Mix in the chopped rosemary.
    2. In an 8×8 baking dish, add the chicken. Pour the maple rosemary sauce over the chicken and coat evenly.
    3. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken has cooked through. Cooking times may vary slightly depending on the thickness of the chicken.

  2. Aviva, I appreciate your contributing this recipe, but am puzzled as to the amount of maple sugar in it. Maple sugar is quite expensive here in Israel. Also, doesn’t 1/3 cup make the dish quite sweet?

  3. Looks like a good, useful recipe. Was the galingale your idea and where did you get it?

    Also, did you use a deep pot like a stew pot (so the chicken would stay moist while it cooked) or more of a shallow one like a stew pan (to encourage evaporation?

  4. Faye, you ask great questions. The galingale was my idea. I buy a root around this time of year in Shuk HaCarmel and freeze it. It keeps more than a year. At the same time I buy fresh turmeric and ginger roots.

    I used a shallow pan with a lid to cook this chicken.

  5. Great recipe. Wonderfull taste. Will be using in upcoming catering take out party.

  6. Thanks, Mimi. Do you also freeze the turmeric and ginger?

  7. Maple Syrup = I don’t find it to be super sweet, but I do have an “American Palate” where we eat dessert for breakfast. I actually “eye ball it.” & I am sure that it could work with less.

  8. Faye, I do freeze turmeric and ginger roots. And horseradish. They all last a year or more, only they get mushy when they thaw out, so I grate or chop up what I need right away and stash it right back in the freezer.

  9. Thanks, Mimi. So do you mean that you grate the whole amount that you have, and then freeze it grated?

  10. Faye, I freeze the whole roots. Freezing them grated would cause flavor deterioration pretty quickly, I’d think. Thanks for asking these questions.

  11. Thanks so much, Mimi. Sorry I didn’t understand your previous note. I have lots of ginger right now and I’m going to freeze some of it.

    By the way, when I took a Chinese cooking course from Nina Simonds, she said the traditional way to keep ginger in China is to bury the root in a pot of sand, and that it works. One of these days I’ll try that too but for now I really appreciate your freezing tip. I had read on the web that people freeze ginger but knowing your experience is what makes this advice valuable to me.

  12. Faye, I read once that Chinese ship cooks would have a barrel of sand in which to keep their ginger fresh during long voyages. It was interesting to know that was correct. I’m glad my bit of experience helped.

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