July 20, 2012 by Helen Nowotnik
You know that time when you taste pure bliss for the first time? When your eyes open to twice their size and your mouth practically convulses with pleasure? I’m talking about eating your first Reese’s cup or slice of authentic tiramisu. Well, I’m here to say I’ve been to the Promised Land: I’ve tasted heaven, and it’s surprisingly … savory.
Pollo Saltado, which literally translates to “jumping chicken,” is a Peruvian stir-fry dish with a little Asian influence. The first time I ordered Pollo Saltado was back home at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Main Street. My friend had to order it for me because I didn’t know Spanish. When it came to the table, it was kind of perfect. Chicken? Si. Garden fresh tomatoes? Muy bien. Two starches, one dish? Me gusta. The perfect comfort food.
To make Pollo Saltado you’ll need:
1 16-oz. package of frozen French fries (or homemade, whichever you have the time for)
1 lb. chicken breast, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large red onion, sliced
2 large fresh tomatoes, sliced and seeded
1 jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. fresh parsley (can be omitted)
4 servings instant rice
First things first: Put the chicken, jalapeno, vinegar and soy sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
A few things to note about the jalapeno before we continue: The original recipe calls for a yellow chili pepper called Peruvian agi amarillo. This pepper can’t be found at The Fresh Grocer, which is why I substituted a jalapeno for it.
Funny story — I actually made Pollo Saltado last weekend with the entertainment editor, Anne Most, and we naively decided to use a habanero chili. According to Wikipedia, the habanero chili was in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2000 as the hottest pepper discovered. It’s sometimes referred to as “Satan’s Chili.” Adding the habanero completely overpowered the dish. Unless you like heat, I recommend something like a jalapeno or serrano. Search the “Scoville Scale” on Wikipedia to see a list of peppers and their heat intensity. Fun fact: Pepper spray ranks as one of the highest items on the Scoville Scale.
Next, prepare the fries and instant rice to the directions on the package. If you time it correctly, they should be finished by the time the stir-fry is done. I use instant rice because it doesn’t taste much different than the real deal, and it can be made in a microwave. Win-win.
Next, put the marinated chicken with the juices and red onion into a big heated nonstick pan with a dash of olive oil. Once the chicken starts to become opaque, add the tomatoes. Summer is the perfect time for tomatoes. Iovine Brothers Produce, located in Reading Terminal Market, offers fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at 10 percent off to college students on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 9 to 5 p.m. So. Many. Tomatoes.
Cook the stir-fry for another seven to 10 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften and the chicken is fully cooked through. Take the pan off the burner and stir in the parsley. Personally, I don’t think the parsley adds too much to the dish, and it’s just another added cost, so I omitted it.
Finally, get ready to assemble the dish. My thorough research on the subject has shown that everyone likes Pollo Saltado plated differently. Some people like the rice on the side, and some like the fries cooked with the chicken. I assembled mine in a bowl with rice on the bottom, French fries in the middle and the pollo on top. This way the juice can seep into the fries and rice.
Add some salt and pepper to taste, and aqui esta el Pollo Saltado!
Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any questions or suggestions.