My friend Aura is a very good cook. She lives in Florida with her husband, Leo, and two adorable (and I do not use that word glibly) children.
When I think of Aura’s cooking, I think of fruit salads, smoothies and the freshest dishes from her native Guatemala – light, healthy, and driven by Florida’s tropical fruits and vegetables. So I was surprised, one winter evening, to sit down at her table and find a big, bubbling casserole of chicken wrapped in bacon.
“It’s Leo’s favorite,” she said, with a grin.
Leo grew up in Colombia, and this dish is one that his family nurse would make. His memories of it stretch back into childhood, and he loves the bacon-rich dish, fragrant with tomatoes, onions and garlic.
Who wouldn’t love it? The chicken was tender and moist, cooked slowly in the simple creamy sauce of tomato, and each morsel of chicken was wrapped in its own slice of thick bacon. Bacon infused the whole dish, right down to the potatoes in the bottom of the casserole.
Its simplicity appealed to me, too. This is a true one-pot meal, with potatoes, chicken, sauce and bacon all emerging at once from the oven.
When Aura sent me the recipe it was just a brief sketch – her notes from watching Leo’s old nurse put the dish together during one of their trips to his hometown.
“Use individual size pieces of chicken,” it said. “Brown the chicken pieces in a pan.” This is how family recipes are passed down, with notes from watching and scribbling and tweaking in your own kitchen.
Aura made adjustments, substituting sour cream for canned cream of chicken soup and seasoning more to her taste. I also tweaked – adding a dash of smoked paprika and measuring and weighing all the ingredients for a more precise recipe.
This is a big dish of food – smoky, garlicky and tender, with extra flavorful sauce to save and pour over pasta or rice later. It’s a family dish, one that children should love unreservedly. It feeds a crowd. And maybe it will become someone else’s favorite too.