Calabacitas is not where the Kardashians live. In fact, Calabacitas has nothing to do with the Kardashians, so let’s try to forget about the Kardashians for 5 minutes. O.K.? Calabacitas, the Spanish word for zucchini, is a South Texan, Tex-Mex dish that has many variations, but corn and zucchini are the constants. I found this recipe many years ago in Sheila Lukins U.S.A. Cookbook and it is a late-summer favorite, a perfect dinner when grilling has lost it’s luster and I find myself wondering, “What else can I make with all this corn, zucchini, and tomatoes?”
While I am writing this I have discovered that Sheila Lukins passed away August 30, 2009, 8 years ago tomorrow. I hadn’t known and I feel the need to acknowledge her spirit. I am glad I have a pot of this stewed chicken and vegetables to comfort me. If you stick around here long enough you’ll realize how much I have learned from her many books. (My Corn and Lima Bean Chowder, as well as the blue cheese dressing on the Grilled Wedge Salad were inspired by this book.) I have all of them and they are dog-eared, marked-up, worn, and overflowing with love and random bookmarks. The other day I found my son’s headless Flat Stanley marking the page for “Quick pointers on peaches.” Sorry, Nicholas. Seems that I momentarily cared more about this page than the fate of your adorable little freckle-faced art project. I learned as much about cooking techniques from her books as I did from my own mother, and I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. It’s a star-spangled collection of regional American seasonal cooking; which is to say, it’s a celebration of EVERYTHING. Rest in Peace, Ms. Lukins. You will be remembered, always.
Pictured above are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe for Calabacitas. Just your average late August market haul, nothing unusual, and I’m sure you could make this year round with fresh frozen corn and good quality canned tomatoes.
No, that is not a three-legged chicken. The original recipe calls for a whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, but I prefer to use an extra leg instead of two wings, and also leave the major cutting to the butcher. So I buy a whole chicken breast and three whole legs with thighs and cut them in halves. (I feel like the wings don’t add much but extra fat, so may as well save them for all the buffalo wing eating that’s coming up in football season.) I use chicken on the bone, with the skin, for this recipe because FLAVOR. But, I suppose you could remove the skin or use boneless if you want to reduce fat or find the bones offensive.
I know what you’re thinking when you see “tomatoes, peeled”. I don’t blame you. I thought it, too, and I’m glad no one could hear me. But then, I remembered the trick: drop them in boiling water for 30 seconds. (Just put the water on while you chop the other vegetables) Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, pierce the skin with a sharp knife and the peel just falls off. It’s THAT SIMPLE. I even took a photo to show you. As for the corn, make sure your knife is freshly sharpened and it will slice off the cob like buttah. Here is the Knife Sharpener I use. It’s not fancy but it’s easy, does the job, and it fits in a drawer right by my work space so it’s useful, and for this job useful trumps fancy.
The recipe is below, basically everything goes in the pot and it cooks for a while. That’s about it! As far as I can tell, in the original recipe, the chicken pieces are served on the bone with the stewed veggies. This is the easiest way to finish and serve the dish, but not the easiest way to eat it. (I love these cookbooks despite their complete lack of photos. That’s a real testament to how good the recipes are.)
To make this dish for a crowd once, I pulled the chicken off the bone and shredded it, then put the chicken back in the pot and served it with tortillas. This makes it easier to eat, but is a little more work on the finishing end. I can tell you that it takes very little time to shred the chicken when it’s cooked, it will just fall off the bone.
Both ways are equally delicious. We served the whole-chicken style Calabacitas on steamed white rice with a green salad on the side for a comforting Sunday dinner.
If you’re looking to mix up your taco night repertoire, I recommend the shredded-chicken style Calabacitas served with flour tortillas, avocado and sour cream with greens on the side,
This is another dish that, like most of my favorites, is even better the next day. Ideally, you could make a big pot of this on Sunday, serve the whole chicken pieces on rice for dinner, and then pull the remaining chicken off the bone for leftovers and have the shredded chicken tortillas the next night or on Tuesday for a super easy taco night. I have also multiplied this recipe and made it a day ahead for a party then heated and served it in a crock pot, buffet style. It would also make a great filling for quesadillas.
Get creative and please let me know what you think! The possibilities are endless but summer is not so let’s get to it.
- 1/2 lb. thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 2 breast halves, 3 drums, and 3 thighs)
- Salt, to taste
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
- 1 large or 2 small green peppers, chopped (1 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 cups diced zucchini
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels
- 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 lb.)
- 1 jalepeno pepper, finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Hot cooked white rice or warmed flour tortillas, for serving
- Place the bacon in a large heavy pot over medium heat, and cook until golden brown and the fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Brown the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, sprinkling them with salt and moving them so they don't stick to the pan, 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside.(o.k. if it hangs out with the bacon)
- Add the onions and bell peppers to the pot, reduce heat to medium low and cook until almost wilted, 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for 2 minutes.
- Return the bacon and chicken to the pot. Add the zucchini, corn, tomatoes and jalepeno peppers. Cook, covered, 1 hour, until chicken is falling off the bones.
- Uncover and cook for 30 minutes longer, to cook off some of the liquid and intensify the flavor.
- Season the mixture with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve over rice or with flour tortillas.