I probably have had the chance to work as a cook with three different old women who, as managers and grandmothers, also owned and operated their restaurants. All three were ethnic, and unfortunately, all were horrible experiences. My first ever experience with these owner ‘types’ was with a Filipino family in the suburbs seven years ago. I was new in the food service industry and in the country, and had no idea how restaurant operations spun. I jumped in at every opportunity that was available just to earn the much needed experience. I also felt that I had to know more Filipinos after living in my new adopted country for the last two years and the only way was to join a Filipino restaurant.
That experience expanded my network and for that short stint in that Filipino restaurant, life-long friends were developed. I needed that boost given that working dual jobs was isolating me from reality and universal existence. It was not healthy and very, very stifling. The Filipino restaurant I worked with served typical ‘turo-turo’ dishes as so with many other Filipino restaurants in the city. ‘Kare-kare,’ ‘Kalderata,’ and ‘Adobo,’ were the typical fare; nothing really fancy and a bit overpriced. That eventually led to its downfall and before that even happened, I was out. It was a ‘fine dining’ restaurant; supposedly, but all I saw were usual Filipino food which, during my shifts, I completely avoided after seeing how it was prepared. Everything came from the package or packet and sauces were diluted to cut corners and save money.
Once in a while, the head cook will make some ‘Chicken Afritada,’ which I also didn’t touch nor try. It was drowning with oil and the tomato sauce from which it was braised in was very pale and looked extremely inedible. Moreover, ‘Chicken Afritada’ was a mainstay in my family dinner table as much as adobo and sinigang. It’s definitely an easy go-to-meal and easy meals as such can sometimes turn out bland as only enhanced by condiments like salt, chilis, fish sauce and ground black pepper.
This is my version of ‘Chicken Afritada.’ I didn’t exactly braise the chicken, which unlike beef, can be pan-fried and be finished off in the oven. It didn’t come out as oily as I was introduced to and Rosemary and red wine were included for that extra bold flavour missing or lacking in many typical Filipino tomato sauce based dishes.
- 1 Chicken Breast (cut with wing bone-in)
- Red Bell Pepper
- Green Bell Pepper
- White Onions
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Fish Sauce
- San Marzano type canned Tomatoes (blended or pureed)
- Red Wine
Pan-fry the chicken breast, skin side down first, until golden brown and shove in a 350’C preheated oven.
Dice some white onions, green and red bell peppers and mince a clove of garlic. Sauté the vegetables and Rosemary in olive oil and set aside.
Check the doneness of the chicken, and remove from the pan. Using the same pan, sauté some finely diced onions, and deglaze the pan with red wine before adding some tomato sauce, ground black pepper and fish sauce into the pan. Adjust the sauce with some water and strain. Finish off with ground black pepper, a little more salt and fish sauce. Add more tomato sauce to attain the desired consistency; adjusting it with stock or water along the way.
Drizzle the sauce around the chicken breast alongside the vegetables. Sprinkle with olive oil and fish sauce before serving.
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