By Cindy Valdez
Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, which was founded by a group of cigar manufacturers. It was originally populated by Cuban and Spanish immigrants who worked in the cigar factories. The Cuban influence is still found today, not only on the streets of Ybor and the surrounding Tampa neighborhoods, but in the restaurants and kitchens as well! Cindy takes on the challenge of cooking a traditional Cuban recipe, Ybor Chicken, found in the cookbook Tampa Treasures. Try it yourself and find out why this recipe will impress even the most skeptical Cuban Grandmothers!
Ybor Chicken Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 whole chicken, cut up
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 green pepper, cut into large pieces
- 1 large onion, cut into large pieces
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1 large tomato shopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup raisens
- 1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 chorizo (Spanish sausage), chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
My husband is Cuban and his grandmother, like so many Cuban grandmothers I’ve met in Tampa, was one heck of a cook. Growing up down the street from his grandmother, my husband spent a lot of time at her house—and as a result, he ate very well.
So when I decided to try this Cuban style dish, I was a little intimidated. I’ve eaten his grandmother’s cooking – and have spent a little time in the kitchen trying to (unsuccessfully) recreate some of her dishes. She’s a tough act to follow. (Besides, green olives and raisins? together? really?)
Thank God this one turned out well!!
As someone who does more “assembling” than cooking, I have one piece of advice: before you turn on the stove, get all of your veggies chopped.
And get yourself a little helper if you can. My youngest daughter (I call her Peanut) was a most excellent chicken shaker!
Once Peanut got all of the chicken good and coated with the flour, salt and pepper, I lightly browned it in some olive oil (which was a bit of a stretch for me because, as my teenagers will happily tell you, I’m not known for “lightly” browning anything).
But it worked out ok this time – apparently my stovetop does cook things on temperatures other than HIGH.
While that was lightly browning (again – yay!), I was chopping veggies and getting the raisins and olives measured out and ready to hit the pan.
Threw all of that stuff in the pan with the leftover olive oil, let it cook for about a minute or two and then added a little red wine (the recipe called for a dry red, I used port because that’s all I had) and let that all simmer for about 5 minutes.
Put the chicken in a casserole dish, poured the veggie/wine/weird raisin and olive mix over it and, well, it didn’t look too bad.
Then I covered it with foil and put it in my 325 degree oven for an hour and a half.
And then my husband came home early and said, “Man I’m starving tonight…I haven’t eaten since breakfast. When’s dinner?”
Given that we normally eat dinner between 6:30 and 7:00 pretty much every night since forever, the fact that he was even asking this was nuts.
Anyway, when I read him the recipe I’d made, he released his grip on the Doritos bag and waited patiently through hunger pangs and rumblies in his tumbly until dinner was done.
And boy was it worth the wait.
You have no idea who my teenage daughter is or how the only food groups she recognizes are breakfast foods and desserts, so you have no reason to believe what I’m about to tell you, but the fact that she’s a teenager who also happens to be a girl should be enough:
My teenage daughter ate SECONDS.
Two whole separate pieces of chicken. A drumstick and a thigh. And she ate the rice AND the STUFF—the veggies and the weird raisin/olive mixture.
And she thanked me for dinner.
My husband? Loved it. Didn’t even add a single dash of Tony C’s (which is saying something; I’m pretty sure I walked in on him sprinkling that stuff on Cheerios once).
This one’s getting added into the rotation.