Osa Eats

Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo with Chaya
Barbara Burkhardt

Barbara is the owner of Jade Luna Home Made Ice Cream, downtown main street, and sells a wide variety of homemade delicacies at the Friday Matapalo farmer’s market at Martina’s Bar.  Contact her directly jadeluna1@yahoo.com


I have a fabulous Tico gardener—who just happens to be my ex-husband—who has the gift of the “green thumb.”13315542_1033130803403412_2702781135016072125_n Anything he puts in the ground takes root and flourishes. Where once was only cow pasture, he has made a tropical oasis appear as if by magic. He likes to come by occasionally and fiddle around in the yard, moving this here, planting that there, changing things up a bit. I give him free rein, because if it were left to me, my yard would be a barren wasteland. I have my own work to do and don’t pay a lot of attention to what he is planting, and that’s how it escaped my attention that I have a wonderfully edible, delicious, and nutritious green called Chaya growing throughout my yard.

Chaya, also called tree spinach among other names is edible when cooked and is high in calcium, iron, carotene and vitamins A, B and C. In fact it has twice as much iron as spinach and ten times as much vitamin C as an orange. The leaves can have stinging hairs and have a toxic compound called hydrogen cyanide, so they need to be boiled for 5 minutes to rid them of this compound. Pick the Chaya leaves (using light gloves if you prefer) and stack them on top of one another.  Avoid the stem and the white sap that seeps out. Plunge into salted boiling water (1 Tablespoon of salt per gallon of water) and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and cool the Chaya and cut out the larger tough fibrous ribs. Now your Chaya is ready to use in any dish that calls for greens.

½ cup flour

1/3 cup olive oil (or more as needed)

1 cup chopped celery

6 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

6 medium chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. oregano or sage

Fresh or dried hot chili peppers, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce to taste

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 quart chicken broth or water

1 pound chicken breast

1 pound chorizo removed from the casing and broken into bite-sized pieces

2 cups cooked chopped Chaya or more to taste

Cooked white rice

In a heavy pot on medium-heat, sauté the chorizo (adding olive oil if the chorizo doesn’t give off enough fat of its 13315794_1029762490406910_6878118118096003890_nown) until brown. Remove the chorizo and add the chicken and sauté until brown. Remove the chicken and reserve it with the chorizo. Add garlic, celery, onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, and sauté until soft and lightly caramelized, then add the bay, thyme, and oregano or sage, and cook one minute more.  Next add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes and reduce to tomato juices.  Add the stock or water, the reserved chicken and chorizo, the cooked chopped Chaya, and bring the mixture to a low simmer. Taste for seasoning and add sea salt, black pepper, and your choice of spicy pepper. I don’t give exact amounts of these seasonings because it’s not only to your taste, but chorizo seasoning varies and will affect the flavor of your gumbo.

Meanwhile have a second heavy pot and whisk ready for your roux. Heat the olive oil on medium-high and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes a dark caramel color or take it a step further if you prefer until it is a dark reddish brown. When you have the desired color, carefully add the roux to the gumbo, whisking it in and thickening the soup. Cook for another 15 to 30 minutes until thick, rich and glossy, and serve hot over white rice.

Buen provecho . . . !

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