Chicken Créole with Chayote


Chicken Créole with Chayote

Chicken cooked in the “Creole” manner means many different things, from Louisiana, to Haiti (“Poulet á la Créole”), to cooking I encountered in Madagascar at a restaurant featuring food from the French Pacific island of Réunion. “Créole” (which has the counterpart terms “Criollo” in Spanish and “Crioulo” in Portuguese) originally indicated a person of European French ancestry who was born and raised in the colonies or overseas territories. The meaning of Creole has broadened over time to include other ancestries, but there was at least some French background. The term now applies to ethnicity, language, and particularly cooking.


Creole cooking in Louisiana shares influences with Spanish Caribbean and Haitian cooking. These include local meats, seafood, vegetables and spices.


Chayote Squash
The recipe below combines several influences I experienced in French-speaking tropical countries. Chicken is common, though usually cooked on the bone, unlike my easier version. And a wonderful vegetable in the squash family, most familiar to Americans  under its Spanish name “Chayote,” is frequent in areas with Creole cooking, including Louisiana and Haiti (where it’s called “Mirliton”) and elsewhere in the French-speaking Caribbean (called “Christophine”) and Jamaica (“Cho-Cho”). Chayote is available at Mexican and Latino grocery stores and some supermarkets.

In Louisiana and Haitian cuisine, a braised Creole chicken dish would be served with plain rice or with a seasoned rice dish. (There is a suitable “spiced rice” in this blog that can be found through the index.)


The recipe serves six, and should be accompanied by a rice dish.


1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 tablespoon flour for the chicken

3/4 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon black pepper for seasoning chicken

1 large chayote squash

1/2 of a large stick of celery, minced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large jalapeño, including seeds, minced

1 poblano or green bell pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil for frying, plus 2 more later

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes plus 1/2 can of water

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice


On a cutting board trim tough or fatty parts off the chicken. Cut the flesh into 1-inch pieces. Season with the flour, salt and pepper, and set aside.


Rinse the chayote, but do not peel it. Split it lengthwise, and scoop out the small seed. Cut flesh into 1-inch pieces and set aside.


Prepare the other vegetables, putting them in separate piles on a tray for easy access.

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken and fry it on high heat, scraping under it very frequently with a metal spatula. Cook till raw color is gone and chicken just begins to turn golden. Lift chicken out to a bowl. 


Add 2 more tablespoons oil to the pot then add minced celery, and stir and fry about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and jalapeño and fry, stirring another 2 minutes. Add diced onion and poblano or bell pepper and fry several minutes, stirring frequently, until onion starts to soften.


Add canned tomatoes and water, plus the seasonings and salt. Bring to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is becoming tender.


Add the cut chayote, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pre-fried chicken and any juices. Bring back to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Test a piece of chayote to see if it has become tender. If not, simmer a little more. But do not overcook the chayote.


Turn off the heat. Stir well and taste for salt, adding a little if needed.


Serve now or, preferably, cool the dish and reheat later to serve. Taste for salt just before serving and adjust if needed. Accompany with a rice dish.



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