Ecuadorian Chicken Stew

Aguado de Gallina (Ecuadorian Chicken Soup)

The wind was howling and soft snowflakes were swirling from the sky when I arrived at the Jersey Shore last night to cook dinner at a friend’s new beach house. They’d just purchased the place, so understandably they hadn’t used the stove before, nor knew how the oven worked. The kitchen utensils, left in the mad dash by the previous owners were somewhat limited but after a small search we found a large skillet, and with another shallow pan, made a makeshift ‘lid’. Paper plates acted as a cutting board, and without a can opener, we pried open the tomato paste with a pair of industrial pliars. Luckily I’d bought most of the ingredients with me from New York, as a quick whip around in the car last minute, would only glean us a can of watery peas and a dusty box of ‘boiled rice in a bag’. Unfortunately the major supermarket is still closed there, shuttered sadly since Hurricane Sandy.

I decided to cook everyone Ecuadorian Chicken Stew, inspired from the recipe from Jose Garces’ cookbook, The Latin Road Home. Jose’s stew is intensely flavored and an easy weeknight option. After browning the chicken pieces you literally pop all the diced-up ingredients in the pan, and let it simmer for 40 minutes. The strength of the dish comes from the combination of Achiote Paste + Smoked Paprika, which gives a deep, slightly-smokey flavor that’s not at all spicy, so it’s ideal for a possibly-fickle crowd. As one guest said “It’s so comforting, almost like an Latin Chicken Cacciatore.”


Adapted from Chef Jose Garces recipe for Chicken and Rice Soup with Achiote (Aguado de Gallina) from his wonderful book “The Latin Road Home”. 

Season 3lb’s of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and legs. Heat Vegetable Oil in a heavy cast iron skillet or Dutch Oven (that has a lid) and gently brown chicken till golden. Set aside. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 1 chopped Spanish (Red) Onion, 5 or 6 minced cloves of Garlic and 1 diced Red Bell Pepper. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Add 1 tablespoon of ground Cumin, and 2 big heaped tablespoons of Achiote Paste and 2 big heaped tablespoons of Tomato Paste and 1 teaspoon of Smoked Spanish Paprika and cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to the pan, and add 1 quart of Chicken Stock (or more if you like a soupier stew) and 2 fresh bay leaves and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Stir in 3 diced Plum tomatoes, 1 cup of Long-grain Rice, 3 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into a small dice and 1 large Carrot, also peeled and cut into a small dice. Cook, uncovered until the stock begins to reduce and the dish begins to thicken. Then add the lid back on, and cook until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone and the rice and potatoes are cooked through. (About 30-40 minutes). Stir in 1 cup of frozen peas, a small handful of roughly chopped Flat-leaf Parsley, a small handful of fresh Cilantro and season to taste with Salt and Pepper



Achiote Paste (Recado rojo) is crucial to this dish. Achiote is a Mexican spice blend of Annatto seeds, All spice, Garlic, Oregano, Cloves, Cumin, Cinnamon and Salt, and will give the dish flavor, as well as a rich mahogany hue. It’s available at any Mexican grocery store. In New York I found it at Kalustyan’s. Click here to get directions and store opening times.

To make your own Achiote Paste, click here. 

Because the dish has peas, potatoes and carrot already in it, we saved time and money by skipping side dishes and just served our chicken stew with plain boiled rice. You could also serve it with grains, or even pasta. We drank a nice Spanish Grenache with it, and as you would expect, the stew tasted even better heated up the next day.


Photograph by Jason Varney
Prop Styling: Heather Chontos

Photograph ©Jason Varney from Jose Garces cookbook “The Latin Road Home”
To purchase this book, which contains the original version of this recipe as well as other great weeknight options, click here.



Books I recommend: Jose Garces “The Latin Road Home”

Cookbooks pile up around my room, were they wafers, taunt and crackling, there would be enough to feed several large extended families.

Some of the books are solid, heavy, and affirming. Some are paperbacks, flimsy with pages lost. “Curl up with a good book” has long been my ointment, my medicine cabinet cure-all, for life’s daily maladies, like the departing of seasons, endless thumping rain, a dark grey Sunday. The feel of the paper, the weight of the book, the photos. Nothing destroys the crush for a new beau more than finding out he owns a Kindle.

Chef/restauranteur Jose Garces has a new cookbook, The Latin Road Home and it’s on the top of my book pile right now. Part food tour, part memoir, it’s informative, but accessible, and it reads like a travelogue with recipes. The more you read, the more you can’t put it down. I took it home on the subway, and by East Broadway, I had 3 strangers asking me what was the book, where could they get it, and the man in front of me who was carrying 2 lbs of shrimp asked me if I could give him a recipe from the book, for something he could possibly make at home that very night. (Shrimp Ceviche!)

The book centers around 5 Latin food cultures that influenced the course of Chef Jose’s life, and these 5 countries make up the chapters: Equador, his ancestral home. (While Jose was raised in North-West Chicago, his parents were both born in Equador). The second chapter is Spain, where he worked, then Cuba, where his wife is from, and finally Mexico and Peru, that was the inspiration for some of his restaurants.

Each of these chapters offers 4 complete dinner menus.
Some of the dishes included in the book are…

Equador: Equdorian Hot Sauce, Fried Pork, Avocado Salad, and Figs in Honey Syrup with Goats Cheese. Spain: Almond Gazpacho with Smoked Trout, Saffron Aioli, Canapes with Duck Confit and Serrano Ham. Cuba: Lobster in Spicy Tomato Sauce, Fried Stuffed Chiles, Guava and Cream Cheese turnovers. Mexico: Spicy Margarita, Octopus ceviché with Avocado, Chipotle Chicken Nachos. Peru: Red Chile Butter, Rosemary Mint Chimichurri, stewed Duck with Potatoes Peas and Chiles, Peruvian Doughnuts.


Jose’s book is beautifully shot by photographer Jason Varney and prop styled by Heather Chontos.

Jason got to travel to Ecuador with Jose and his wife and children. They spent the first few days shooting in the Quito markets, and Jose reunited with many of his family members at a dinner he hosted in Quito, where Jason had the pleasure of shooting portraits of Jose’s family tree. Next they traveled a few hours into the Andes and stayed at an eco-touism site called Hacienda Zuleta (on the book’s cover). They shot all the recipes a few weeks later at Jose’s Cira Centre restaurant JG Domestic while it was still under construction, they set up a make-shift studio and shot the nearly 100 recipe/process images over 8 days. In terms of propping, Heather decided to keep the palette muted but introducing pops of Latin colors- aquas, pinks, yellows. She hand-painted surfaces, and hand-tore linens. They wanted things to feel distressed and rustic to play up the history and rustic vibe of the food. The wrinkles in the fabric were important, they felt it gave a texture and movement that was needed to convey the rustic Latin feel.


(Pictured above, second from top). Recipe courtesy of Jose Garces, from his new cookbook “The Latin Road Home”. Cooking Note: To approximate the Cubano at home, follow the recipe to make the absolute key ingredient: the marinated, moist, and deeply flavorful roast pork. Note: plan for several hours of marinating time; you’ll end up with enough pork for a second round of sandwiches or the main component of another meal. Makes 4 sandwiches. 

2 tablespoons  + 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of ground mustard
2 lb boneless pork shoulder, tied in an even roll
1/2 cup of Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon of Ground Mace
2 tablespoons freshly ground Pepper
1 tablespoon Spanish Smoked Sweet Paprika

4 (6-inch) light crisp-crusted bakery rolls
2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
3/4 lb best quality domestic Ham (unglazed), thinly sliced
1/4 lb Swisss or Gruyere Cheese, thinly sliced
1 large Dill Pickle, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter

TO CURE THE PORK: Combine 2 tablespoons of the salt with the sugar and ground mustard. Rub the mixture all over the meat, cover, and set it in the refrigerator to cure for 6 hours. Place a rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

TO ROAST THE PORK: Rinse it under cold running water to remove the seasoning. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine the Dijon mustard, mace, black pepper, paprika, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Set the pork in a roasting pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast in center rack at 325 degrees. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees, about 45 minutes. Allow the meat to cool completely before slicing.

TO MAKE THE SANDWICHES: Neat a sandwich press or griddle to medium-high. Split the bread lengthwise and pull it open. Spread the mustard on 1 side of each roll and layer on the roast pork, ham, cheese, and pickles. Spread the butter all over the outside of the sandwiches and griddle until the cheese is melted and the meats are warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, wrap the sandwich in foil and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.) Slice each in half on the diagonal and serve.


To purchase the book, Jose Garces The Latin Road Home: Savoring the foods of Equador, Mexico and Peru, click here.

To read the NPR interview where Garces discusses his latest cookbook. Click here.

Photos from top: Chiles for his recipe for Equadorian Hot Sauce, Cuban Sandwich (Cubano), Spanish Octopus with Potato Confit, (Bottom) Chef Jose Garces eating a Warm Hominy Salad.

Note about my blog: Did you know there are more pictures that are showing on this post? To see entire galley, click on one picture and it will take you to the galley. From there you can keep tapping on the photo to work your way through the galley.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JASON VARNEY: Jason is a food & travel photographer that grew up in the woods, but now calls The City of Brotherly Love home. When he’s not taming his Welsh Terrier pup, Jase appreciates stiff drinks & long exposures. He is based in New York, and Philadelphia. Check out his work here. And his blog here.

STYLED BY HEATHER CHONTOS: Heather is an artist, prop stylist and wannabe cowgirl, who lives in Bozeman, Montana with her two daughters, a giant St. Bernard, four chickens, and three ducks. Heather travels between both coasts for work, but when at home, hosts big dinner parties in Bozeman where they draw all over the table together and make crazy art whilst eating. Heather now works mainly through her little design consultancy Milk Farm RoadCheck out her work hereAnd her blog here. 



Fried Green Tomatoes at the High Country Grill, Bozeman, Montana.

Heather Chontos, artist, prop stylist and contributor to “Three to One” writes to me from Bozeman, Montana—

The High Country Grill opened in March 2012 inside the well known “Rockin R” bar in downtown Bozeman, right on main street, a staple of the local bar scene for many generations and well known for the fact that it—amongst three other businesses on the block, blew up only three years ago from a gas leak.

Downtown Bozeman has gone through many culinary transitions. A new addition to the food scene here is the High Country Grill owned by local chef Chip Bales who has undertaken the task of creating a delicious menu consisting of scratch-made bar food. Food that we all would love to eat. It’s a take on the American version of the “gastro-pub” phenomenon.

Chip’s background is pure Southern, though he has been kicking around kitchens in Southwestern Montana for quite some time. His food speaks to those Southern flavors; the fried green tomatoes (my personal favorite) with a buttermilk ranch dressing, being one of them. The tomatoes are breaded perfectly with juicy, fleshy, tomatoes inside. The Chicken wings come with three different sauces (Caribbean Glaze, House BBQ and Buffalo) and there are also lamb skewers with Mint Dijon and grilled Green Onions. The lamb is tender, has great flavor, and is cooked to perfection. The meat is sourced locally from a Rancher’s Co-operative right down the highway in Big Timber, Montana, called Sweetgrass Natural lamb.

Then there is the high country burgersmothered in a molten Poblano Cheese sauce with crisp and lightly salted hand cut Fries, the Meatloaf, too, a cajun recipe, served with a spicy roasted tomato sauce is a must order.

This is scratch-made bar food taking bar food to a new level in Montana, for sure.”


Kindly Chef Chip Bales agreed to part with his recipe, thanks Chip!

from the High Country Grill, Bozeman. 

I cup of Flour
2 teaspoons of Creole Seasoning

Green tomatoes:
Core and slice quarter inch think
discard end pieces.

Egg Wash:
1 cup of whole milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons of Creole Seasoning

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
1 quarter cup of scratch Mayonnaise
1 quarter cup of Buttermilk
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh Parsley
Quarter teaspoon of granulated Garlic
Quarter teaspoon of granulated Onion

1 cup of Breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons of Creole seasoning.

Working with 4-5 slices at a time dust green tomatoes with flour, then dunk in egg wash and dredge in breadcrumbs. Line cookie tray with parchment and freeze breaded tomatoes. Preheat fryer to 350 degrees. Fry frozen tomatoes in small batches. As they start to thaw in the hot oil, the oil will begin to splatter violently. When this eruption begins to reside, you will know that the tomatoes are about done. After frying, transfer tomatoes to a small metal bowl and season immediately.

Notes: It’s commonplace to fry green tomatoes directly after breading, but Chip says that freezing them first, is the key to this recipe. The technique allows the breading to get super crispy without the tomato itself getting mushy. Chip’s favorite bread for the breadcrumbs in this recipe is a baguette. Leave the baguette on your countertop of at least a week, then break into chunks and grind in a food processor. Leftover breadcrumbs will hold indefinitely. 


Located inside the Rocking R Bar
211 E. Main Street,
in downtown Bozeman
Daily: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm


Photo and text by Heather Chontos.

HEATHER CHONTOS: is an artist, prop stylist and wannabe cowgirl, who lives in Bozeman, Montana with her two daughters, a giant St. Bernard, four chickens, and three ducks. Heather travels between both coasts for work, but when at home, hosts big dinner parties in Bozeman where they draw all over the table together and make crazy art whilst eating. Heather now works mainly through her little design consultancy Milk Farm Road.

Check out her work hereAnd her blog here.


Rosemary and Potato Bread, Montana

Because this dough is stretched by hand, and has a tendency to keep stretching, the bakers at Le Petit Outre, in Missoula Montana, tie this Rosemary Potato Bread up with a string before baking. So cute! When it emerges from the oven it’s perfumey, Rosemary-fragrant, and salty delicious.

I’m going to tie everything up with string, that I bake, from now on. What a great idea.

Check out Le Petit Outre here.

(Photo: Dimity Jones)
Artwork and props: Heather Chontos 


Thanksgiving in Montana

Soft snow falling from tall towering peaks, low hanging grey clouds, swirling. White dashed roads, like morse code, snaking up and over. I’d never been to Montana, and yet here I was; Three plane trips and a three hour car ride later I was in Missoula, Montana at the front door of prop stylist, painter, and illustrator Heather Chontos, with a felt, draw-string bag that contained two cameras, flannel pj’s and an oyster shucker.

By the age of 21 Heather was illustrating for Issey Miyaki, Spoon, Jalouse magazine, and had three major painting shows under her belt. Originally schooled in England at the University College, London, she now has regular gigs at Williams and Sonoma, Anthropologie and Rachael Ray, and in the past, was a regular contributor to the now defunct Gourmet magazine. (RIP)

Thanksgiving day started with a leisurely hike up a nearby mountain, to spot deer with Heather, her two daughters and their dog (Marvin). Then we sat down and sketched out our plan for the day. Here’s what we decided:

Baked Feta in Phyllo dough with Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Garlic
Homemade baked bread inspired by Jim Lahey
Brined Turkey
Crispy Brussels Sprouts in Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese
Stuffed Pumpkin with Parsnips and Carrots
Andouille Sausage Stuffing
Garlic Cream-infused Mashed Potatoes
Kody’s Homemade Plum, Yuzu and Cinnamon Ice-cream
Rhea’s Apple Pie
Pumpkin Creme Brulée
and Pecan Pie. 



Since I got in very late the night before Thanksgiving, the local Seafood place had only 6 oysters to offer us, not enough to make my traditional Oyster stuffing! So we decided a better idea would be to break with tradition and opt instead for a simple bread stuffing, using local Montana Andouille sausage. Which was more appropriate, quick to make, and delicious. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté in about 1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter1 finely diced medium White Onion, a half a cup of finely diced Celery. When Onion is translucent, add 2 cloves of finely minced Garlic. Add about 1.8lbs of Andouille Sausage that has been removed from it’s casing. Smash down with the back of a wooden spoon to evenly distribute. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper. (Mixture should taste a bit too salty, as once the bread is added this will lessen.) When mixture is just cooked through, move to a buttered baking dish. Add one entire packet of Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing Mix, and mix through. Then add 4 cups of Chicken or Turkey stock. Stuffing should be wet through, but not soupy. Make sure each nugget of bread is covered with liquid. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes.

Rhea Dahlberg, who was raised in Montana, bought her homemade Apple Pie for us all to eat, a recipe from her mother. 

This is enough for 1 crust: You’ll need to make 2 for the pie. Blend together 2 and a half cups of Flour1 tablespoon Sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon Salt. Then add 1 cold stick of Butter and half a cup of Shortening (also cold). Work with a fork or pulse in a food processor until dough looks crumbly. Slowly add 1/4 cup of ice cold water. Work until dough comes together. Dump onto a floured surface and form a disk. Chill for 20 minutes and then roll out on a floured surface. For the filling: Peel 10 Apples and slice them thin, squeeze half a Lemon over the apples to prevent browning. In a saucepan combine: half a cup of Brown Sugarhalf a stick of Butter2 teaspoons of ground Cinnamon1 teaspoon of ground Ginger. Stir until melted together. Mix into apples. Put first pastry into pie dish. Pour apple mixture in. Put second pie crust on top. Make two slits into the top crust. Bake for 45- to 1 hour at 325 degrees.


Photographs from top: Baked Feta in Phyllo dough with Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Garlic, Jim Lahey’s  No-Knead Bread, a bowl of chocolate covered almonds and my ‘o’ polaroid, Rhea’s Apple Pie, Stuffed Pumpkin with Parsnips and Carrots, Crispy Brussels Sprouts in Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese, the chalkboard Menu, view from the outside: it’s cozy inside. 


All props, plates, linens and other fine tableware seen in these shots are available at:
Milk Farm Road

Click here to see Heather’s website, which also includes her blog.

(Photographs: Dimity Jones)


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who subscribes to, follows or reads my blog. (Especially some of the early subscribers, who’ve hung in there, no matter what!) I really appreciate your support. Thank you! —d x