The country of Venezuela in South America is blessed with some of the most magnificent scenery on Earth, including the world’s highest waterfall – Angel Falls.
Paradoxically, Venezuela is also among the most urbanized countries in Latin America with the vast majority of Venezuelans living in the cities of the north – especially in the capital, Caracas. Since the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, Venezuela has been found to have the world’s largest oil reserves and has been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil. In fact, the American oil company Citgo is actually owned by the national oil company of Venezuela and gets all of its product from there.
Venezuelan cuisine often varies greatly from one region to another. Its cuisine, traditional as well as modern, is influenced by indigenous peoples and its European ancestry (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French), and is also influenced by African and Native American traditions.
One of my favorite Venezuelan recipes is Polvorosa de Pollo – chicken pot pie. Who doesn’t love chicken pot pie, I ask you – it is a delicious recipe no matter where in the world you are and the Venezuelan version is unique and especially savory.
This Venezuelan delight is like a giant empanada, and it is often made into individual portions as well. Its distinguishing characteristics include a very crumbly, soft pastry crust – more like the French pâte sablée pastry than the flaky pie crust you might expect. (The word polvo means powder or dust, and polvoroso means “dusty”). The filling of this tasty pie is stewed chicken and vegetables, seasoned with a variety of flavors (tomato, cumin, wine, chiles) and spiked with raisins and olives.
This is the best recipe I know of for Polvorosa de Pollo and is from the “Venezuelan Cookbook – Classic Venezuelan Recipes” by Jose de Silva.
Enjoy, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the Pastry:
3 cups flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard, chilled
1 ½ sticks butter, chilled
2 egg yolks
1/3 – ½ cup buttermilk (or water)
For the Filling:
3 chicken breasts, bone in and with skin
3-4 slices bacon
3-4 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
3 cloves garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar or panela
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
½ cup white or red wine
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon flour
½ cup chopped green or black olives
½ cup raisins
Prepare the pastry dough: Place the flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the cold butter and shortening into small pieces and add to the bowl. Pulse mixture several times briefly until butter and shortening are in pea-size pieces and mixture is crumbly. (You can also cut the butter and shortening into the flour by hand or with a pastry cutter).
Add egg yolks to the mixture. Add ¼ cup buttermilk and pulse mixture briefly. The dough should start to come together. Add more buttermilk, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until you can squeeze a handful of dough together and it sticks into one mass without crumbling apart. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Divide it into 2 portions, one twice as big as the other. Shape the portions into flat disks, wrap with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
Prepare the filling: Place the bacon in the bottom of a large stockpot and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon and set aside to cool. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease. Set aside an additional tablespoon of bacon fat for later use.
Place the chicken breasts into the same stockpot and brown them over medium heat, turning frequently, until all sides are browned. Remove chicken to a plate (chicken will not be cooked through).
Coarsely peel and chop one of the onions and the carrots. Coarsely chop the celery. Add the vegetables to the stockpot and cook over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add the chicken back to the pot, cover completely with water, and add the bouillon and bay leaf. Cover pot and simmer chicken over low heat until cooked though, about 25 minutes.
Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Strain chicken broth into a bowl and reserve. Discard vegetables. Once chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the bones and skin, and shred or cut the meat into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Peel and dice the remaining onion. Seed and dice the bell peppers and the tomato. Mince the garlic. Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat back to the stock pot along with the diced vegetables and garlic and cook them over medium heat, stirring, until soft and fragrant.
Add the brown sugar, cumin, chile powder, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to the vegetables. Add the wine and cook, stirring, over low heat for several minutes.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and heat til bubbly. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved chicken broth and heat until almost boiling, then add mixture to the vegetables, along with the shredded chicken. Crumble the bacon and add to the pot. Cook over low heat for several minutes, adding more chicken stock if mixture seems too dry. Stir in the raisins and the olives. Taste for seasonings and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.
Let the pastry dough come almost to room temperature. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Roll out the larger piece of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper (or parchment paper) into a 15 inch diameter circle. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with the rolled out dough. Roll the second piece of dough into a 10 ½ inch diameter circle.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill the pastry-lined pan with the chicken filling. Place the second piece of pastry over the top and seal the edges together. Cut a few vent holes in the top of the pastry. Whisk the egg into a small bowl and brush it onto the pastry before baking.
Bake the pastry for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown and heated though.
Remove pastry from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes before removing the springform ring. Serve warm or at room temperature.