Article by Alyssa Pankau | Edited by James Rashiid | Photos by Dawn Shimura
Sometimes Donny Orozo will bike through the Wisconsin countryside and take in the smell of cows to remind him of home. Several years ago Orozo left the Dominican Republic for the United States in search of a better life, eventually becoming head chef and owner of Paninoteca in Appleton. But he still misses life on the farm back home. So Orozo kept those cherished memories alive by offering several traditional Dominican dishes at his restaurant.
No English, No Money
As an immigrant living in America, Orozo doesn’t take for granted the opportunity he’s had to succeed. And when he reflects on his experience, he’s proud of how far he’s come. He came to America with no English, no money, and a long list of goals for himself. Within a year he saved up enough for a car, and within three he bought a house and opened a restaurant. Then, after five years he was able to bring his family here to live with him. All his hard work has certainly paid off.
Naturally, Orozo loves talking about food. His favorite dish is called chen-chen, which is a cracked corn pilaf well loved in the Dominican. His favorite ingredients to cook with include culantro (an herb similar to cilantro), black pepper, salt, green peppers, and onions. Comparing culinary practices in America and the Dominican, Orozo says Wisconsinites roast many of their dishes, use different seasonings, and seem to enjoy baking above all else.
A Taste of the Dominican
Orozo shares his recipe below for a chicken and rice dish served with pinto beans and salad. It’s great for lunch or dinner and is sure to fill you up! Most of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, and the chef recommends that you try it with el Presidente, a Dominican beer. As with many traditional recipes passed down through generations, the measurements are not exact. Be sure to let us know what you think and enjoy!
Locrio de Pollo con Habichuelas y Ensalada Verde
(Chicken and Rice with Pinto Beans and Salad)
Recipe by Donny Orozo
Oil | Brown sugar | 2 lbs chicken (can be substituted with any meat or vegetables*) | 1-2 spoonfuls granulated chicken bouillon | 1 spoonful garlic salt | 2 spoonfuls minced garlic | 3 onions | 2 green peppers | 1 cup water | Rice | Butternut squash | 1 can pinto beans | 1 package Goya Sazon Culantro y Achiote seasoning | Lettuce | Tomato | Olive oil | Vinegar | Lemon (squeezed) | Salt | Plantains
*If substituting vegetables, don’t use broccoli or cauliflower since the florets will become soggy.
1.) Mix the brown sugar and oil in a pan and stir over medium heat until caramelized. Set the mixture aside.
2.) In a bowl toss the chicken with the granulated chicken bouillon, garlic salt, and minced garlic until the chicken is fully covered
3.) In a large pot, mix the coated chicken and caramelized brown sugar, cover, and cook on high heat for 15 minutes. Add a chopped onion and green pepper with one cup of water to the pot and cook on high for 15 more minutes. (Toss the vegetables in whole if you only want them to flavor the dish, not to eat.)
4.) Once cooked, remove the chicken and pour the broth into a separate container. Add another two teaspoons of granulated chicken bouillon to the broth. Then, begin ladling the broth back into the pot, adding two cups of water for each cup of broth. Add one cup of uncooked rice for every three cups of broth. Place the chicken on top of the rice, cover, and cook for 20 minutes on low.
5.) Peel and halve the butternut squash to remove the seeds, and then cut it into small pieces. Boil the squash in a pot of water until cooked.
6.) While the chicken, rice, and squash are cooking, blend half of the pinto beans in a food processor or blender. Keep the rest of the beans whole.
7.) In another pan heat oil over medium heat until hot. Cook one spoonful of minced garlic, Goya seasoning, three spoonfuls of granulated chicken bouillon, and finely chopped green pepper and onion. Be careful not to burn the mixture. This is known as Sofrito. Once cooked, add the Sofrito to the beans. Then, add the cooked squash.
8.) Cut the plantains into small strips and fry in a pan of oil.
9.) Make the salad while everything cooks. Chop lettuce, onion, avocado, and a tomato and toss with a dressing. To make the dressing, mix olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. And last but not least, enjoy family style!