A Chicken in Every Pot
Chef Ric Orlando offers four budget-balancing, delicious, one-pot chicken recipes from around the world — along with a side order of philosophy
Ric Orlando (inventor of the “Ric-ter scale” of spiciness at his Saugerties restaurant, New World Home Cooking) relaxes at home by cooking for his family
Photographs by Jennifer May
Making home-cooked dishes — whether for your family, for friends, or even just for yourself — is an important part of our culture that we should keep alive. I think it’s crucial that we remain in touch with our food, no matter how busy or stressed we are — and not just because there are nutritional advantages in meals made from scratch. My prescription for peace of mind is to spend time in the kitchen every day. Put on some music, maybe sip a little wine, then use your senses of touch, taste, and smell to create sustenance. Cooking is like therapy, a way to relax.
These one-pot chicken recipes take just an hour to prepare. They’re designed to be easy and inexpensive — under $20 — and they make your house smell bewitched as they cook. That’s important! Dress them up with side dishes, and they’re perfect for a simple, festive dinner party.
I recommend buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. A local, organic chicken is best, but if you’re on a very tight budget, you can use the most inexpensive kind. The dishes will be just as comforting. Sauté the livers and hearts and eat them as a little snack while you cook. Jacques Pépin calls that the chef’s treat. (I share them with the dog.) If there are any leftovers, you can throw them in a pot with the bones and make a second stock, or a potluck soup.
All four recipes start with a four-pound chicken cut into 10 pieces — two legs, two thighs, two whole wings, and four breast pieces. Each dish is cooked in one heavy casserole pan or Dutch oven following the same basic technique, and each feeds from four to six people.
Ghana: West African Groundnut Chicken
This is a beautiful dish that features peanut butter as a thickener, giving it a sophisticated, satisfying flavor. Season the chicken to make it as mild or spicy as you wish.
- 4 lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- Salt, cayenne, and ground coriander to taste
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch sections
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 half-inch cube of ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 cups cubed fresh sweet potatoes
- 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup okra, sliced (optional)
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
1. Season the chicken with salt, ground coriander and cayenne pepper to taste.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole. Brown the chicken nicely on all sides, remove and reserve on a plate.
3. Add the celery, onion, ginger and garlic to the pan, and wilt over medium-high heat for two minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes and chicken. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 45 minutes or until the chicken is done. If using the okra, add it and cook for an additional five minutes.
5. Remove the chicken and vegetables and arrange on a deep serving platter. Skim any grease from the sauce. Add the peanut butter and whisk in well to incorporate. Cook one minute to bind, then pour the sauce over the chicken.
Something green? Add a bright Mediterranean-flavored salad with a lemony dressing, and maybe couscous on the side.
Wine: A New York Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be perfectly matched with this nutty, perfumy dish.
El Salvador: Chicken with Cream
This is a stick-to-your-ribs, soothing peasant dish I learned from my Salvadoran friends.
- 4 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Juice of one lime
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 each red and green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
- 1 jalapeño, sliced into rings
- 1 medium Spanish onion, sliced into rings
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small zucchini or summer squash, diced
- 14 oz. can plum tomatoes, broken up with the back of a spoon
- 1 small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 cups cooked white rice
1. Season the chicken with the lime juice, salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole. Brown the chicken nicely, remove and reserve.
3. Add the onions, jalapeno and peppers. Cook until wilted but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and squash. Bring to a boil.
5. Put the chicken back in the casserole, then add the cream and stir everything together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
6. Fold in the cilantro. Cover and let the chicken gently simmer for 30-40 minutes, until done. If it gets dry, add a little water. Serve over white rice.
Something green? This goes well with a salad of celery, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, with a red wine vinegar dressing to counteract the heaviness of the dish.
Wine: A big, fat Chardonnay will hold up well against all the richness.
Vietnam: Chicken Curry
This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s real Vietnamese comfort food, mildly spiced, perfumed and rib-sticking at the same time.
- 4 lb. chicken, skin removed, cut into 10 pieces
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 Tbs. curry powder, either Vietnamese or Madras
- 1 large carrot, peeled, sliced into coins
- 1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and diced medium
- 2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 2 Tbs. fish sauce
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- Juice of one lime
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
- 4 scallions, sliced into rounds
1. In a heavy casserole, sauté the chicken in the oil until golden, then remove and reserve.
2. Add the onions, crushed pepper, shallots, garlic, carrot, bell pepper and curry powder. Sauté, stirring, until everything is wilted and coated with curry. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.
3. Add all remaining ingredients except the herbs. Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook covered for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve in bowls, garnished with cilantro, mint, and scallions.
Something green? You could serve sliced cucumbers, hot chili sauce, and lime wedges on the side.
Wine: A crisp Pilsner beer is best with this, but if you really want wine, choose something tart and bright, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Seyval Blanc.
Puerto Rico: Asopao de Pollo
Asopao (that’s ah-so-POW) is a soup-stew that every Puerto Rican cook has a rendition of. The main seasoning is sofrito, the traditional Latino mix of aromatics and cilantro. It’s a quick, healthy, homey meal.
- 4 lb. chicken cut into 10 pieces
- 1 heaping tablespoon adobo seasoning (or make your own by mixing equal parts salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 medium sweet bell peppers, seeded and medium diced
- 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups natural chicken broth
- 1½ cups long grain white rice
- ¼ cup stuffed green olives
1. Season the chicken pieces well with the adobo. In a heavy casserole, heat the oil to medium hot. Brown the chicken nicely on all sides, remove and reserve.
2. Make the sofrito. Roughly chop the cilantro, saving six nice sprigs for garnish. Put the cilantro, half the bell pepper, the onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse, then let the machine run to make a fine, pesto-like grind.
3. Put the casserole back over medium-high heat. Add the sofrito and sauté for three minutes to release its aroma. Do not brown it. Add the rice and stir to coat.
4. Add the chicken and all remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil. Cover snugly and set the heat to low. Allow to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat and allow the casserole to stand covered for five minutes before serving.
Something green? Cooked kale or Swiss chard would go well.
Wine: A light red like a Sangiovese Chianti-style wine or a southern French Grenache.
Note: To make this even simpler, you can substitute premade sofrito, which is usually in a supermarket’s Goya food section. It has preservatives and it’s salty, but it captures the flavor.
Yummy leftovers: For one more easy recipe (Orlando's take on Chicken Cacciatore),