Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mangu` and Me

I love mangu!

“What is mangu`?” you ask.

First and foremost, it’s a Dominican dish, usually served at breakfast, of boiled and mashed green plantains.  They don’t taste like you would expect plantains to taste.  Although they are a breakfast food, I consider them the Dominican answer to mashed potatoes.  They are creamier though and less starchy.  They are also usually served with sautéed onions on top. 

Mangu` is also a Dominican takeout restaurant around the block from my office where I sometimes like to go for lunch.  They serve mangu` at both breakfast and lunch as well as many other tasty delights like pork stew, meatballs, and oxtails. The menu changes a bit each day, although every day you can get chicken stew and mangu`. I am an addict.  

I can remember on my first visit.  I ordered pork stew and they asked me what type of rice I wanted.  I saw the green mush in the case and asked what it was.  The woman behind the counter said, "Mashed green plantains."  When I looked skeptical, she said, "It's good."  I decided to try it.  At first I thought it was sort of bland, but then I found I couldn't stop eating it. 

Eating there so often can really drain my wallet (this is midtown Manhattan after all) so it’s time to start thinking about making some of this stuff at home.  I do have to consider my husband’s preferences of course, so it makes sense to try to replicate chicken stew and mangu` rather than make pork stew or oxtails.  In a way it’s the perfect dish for this time of year.  It’s officially fall, so stewed dishes are stereotypical of the season.  On the other hand, as the days turn cold and dark, it’s fitting to eat foods that whisk your palate (although sadly not your body) to a warm, sunny, Caribbean island.

While trying to come up with the perfect recipe for Pollo Guisado, I realized that there is no single authentic recipe.  Looking through recipes online I have learned that every cook, and every cook’s mother, makes it his or her own way.  While many of the components are the same, everyone does it a little differently.  In general, the dish contains onions, tomato, citrus juice, adobo seasoning, and a little sugar in the pot to help the chicken brown.  That’s where my starting point was.  I didn’t have any adobo, but I did use the main components: garlic powder, salt, and turmeric.  Many recipes contain olives, but I substituted pimentos since I don’t like olives.  I used the parts of the chicken my husband and I like best rather than using all the parts of a whole chicken.  

I made a little variation on the mangu` too, adding a bit of coconut oil instead of using just butter.  I gave them the traditional red onion and vinegar topping.

(Check out the beans.  They came from a friend's garden.  I forgot what they are called, but they are purple when raw.  They have great flavor.  It's not like me to like a bean so much, but these were awesome.)

I was happy with how much my husband liked it, but it wasn't nearly as good as what I get at Mangu` Dominican Kitchen. The flavor, the richness, just wasn't there. I'll chalk it up to not being as practiced at making it.  I certainly welcome anyone who wants to try this to tweak the recipe and see how they might improve on it.  I'm thinking I should play a little merengue music while I cook and that might help.

Dominican Style Chicken Stew (Pollo Guisado)

  • 1 chicken cut up (or a mixture of your favorite chicken parts - I used thighs and breasts)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4 Tbl olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 diced green pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbl tomato paste
  • 1 small jar pimentos, diced
Mix together lime juice, 2 Tbl olive oil, garlic, and onion.  Toss chicken in the mixture and allow to marinate at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.

Combine 2 tsp salt, garlic powder and turmeric. Remove chicken from marinade and rub with the mixture.  Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large pan. Sprinkle sugar over the bottom of the pan.  Brown chicken well on both sides.  Remove from heat.

Add onions, chopped tomatoes, and pepper to the pan.  Cook until soft into a soffrito.  Add chicken back to the pan along with the water, tomato paste, and pimentos.  Simmer an additional 30-40 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan.  Boil the liquid for a couple of minutes to reduce.  Serve chicken with sauce over rice or with mashed plantains.

Mangu` (Mashed green plantains)

  • 4 green plantains, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbl butter or 1 Tbl butter, 1 Tbl coconut oil
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbl cider vinegar
Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add plantain chunks to the water and boil for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender.

Remove from the water and mash them (I use a potato masher).  You can soften the mixture with small amounts of the cooking liquid.  Mash until you have a smooth and creamy consistency.

Add butter/coconut oil and salt to taste.

Heat olive oil over low heat in a pan.  Gently cook onions until soft and transparent.  Add the vinegar (and add salt to taste if you like) and cook until evaporated.

Serve mangu` topped with onions. 


bellini said...

Playing merengue music might not help get that restaurant taste you are looking for but you will sure have fun cooking in the kitchen.

The Duo Dishes said...

A lot of these dishes are all about the sofrito. perhaps if you try cooking it longer and at a lower heat to really develop the flavor? The mango sounds like a great dish to try. We should get some green plantains!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

DD Guys - Good point. I think I probably skimped on the cooking as my husband was observing Yom Kippur and really wanted to eat before sundown. I didn't make it unfortunately, but he was anxious to eat as soon as he could.

Blond Duck said...

Maybe they use a certain oil or spice...or maybe it's gas stove versus electric or their professional grill.