If you’ve come across the post about our pique, a delightful Puerto Rican hot sauce, you’ve read about our obsession with the North Bay restaurant Sol Food, that serves up Puerto Rican cuisine to long lines of hungry patrons daily. After moving 100 miles away, I rigorously toiled in the kitchen to recreate their delicious dishes. The first thing I focused on recreating was their pique hot sauce, which I now make weekly for use on salads, rice, and just about anything else I can put it on. Recreating their pollo al horno (which roughly translates to “the most delicious chicken ever”) and pink beans proved to be a challenge in need of teamwork, so Rafael and I began our mission.
We had to start with the original. Ordering a plate of pollo al horno at Sol Food is an experience for the senses. A platter is delivered that contains nothing fancy: baked boneless chicken thighs, a ramekin of beans, white rice, a salad of baby lettuce greens coated with a garlicky citrus dressing, and tostones (fried plantains). The chicken is marinated with a variety of spices, most notably oregano and garlic. Everything is so perfectly prepared and tasty that you may not realize that ordering the extra piece of chicken was too much food until you are back in your car ready to make the 100 mile trek home. Of course, the meal is not complete without bottles and bottles of spicy orange pique.
Our task was to recreate pollo al horno and Puerto Rican stewed beans (habichuelas guisadas). The pique recipe was already perfected and we decided to skip the tostones in this version. The chicken recipes we came across all had plenty of oregano, garlic, and parsley in common, as well as Goya brand seasonings, which are easy enough to find at big grocery stores. You can also make your own if you’d like to search the internet (we stuck with Goya for ease). There are also plenty of habichuelas guisadas recipes out there, and we again kept the common themes in this version: recaito (a jarred cilantro/green pepper/onion/garlic base), tomato sauce, potatoes, and olives. We decided to go with pinto beans, which are much easier to purchase than the pink beans so many recipes called for.
The pollo al horno turned out remarkably juicy and flavorful baked in the oven. The beans were equally delicious and so close to our memory of Sol Food that we aren’t quite as tempted now to make the four hour round-trip drive on a Sunday just for lunch.
Not only are these dishes flavorful and fun enough to serve at a party, they also provide a high protein and fiber dinner with low enough calories to be enjoyed while dieting. I highly recommend serving these dishes with a splash or two of pique, and they go nicely with rice and a mixed greens salad. For a salad dressing, if you’re addicted to spice, I recommend olive oil and pique. If you prefer the milder side, a lime vinaigrette pairs excellently with Puerto Rican fare.
2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon Goya brand adobo
1 packet Goya brand sazon con culantro y achiote
1 tablespoon dried, crushed oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 tablespoons Goya recaito
4 whole bay leaves
About 2 dozen Spanish green olives, halved
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet of Goya sazon
2 15 ounce cans pinto beans
2 potatoes, diced
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken, and blend into a smooth marinade.
- In a large bowl, toss the chicken and marinade.
- Place the chicken onto a foil-lined baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the chicken is near done.
- Remove foil and bake chicken to desired doneness, about 5 minutes longer.
- Heat the olive oil and recite in a pot for 5 minutes over medium high heat.
- Add the bay leaves, olives, tomato sauce, and sazon. Mix until incorporated.
- Add the potatoes and beans. For thicker beans, add the beans plus their liquid. For thinner beans, drain and add 1 cup of water.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are softened.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Goya brand products can be found in the Hispanic section of most major supermarkets.
4oz serving cooked chicken: 212 calories, 35g protein, 8g fat, 0g carbs
Serving of beans: 155 calories, 6g protein, 2g fat, 26g carbs