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Chicken with Spiced Tomato, Caper & Olive Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: two to three.

The inspiration for this recipe was Cuban picadillo, a meat dish usually seasoned with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fragrant spices like cinnamon and cloves. Serve on a bed of white or brown rice.


  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 3)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Tiny pinch each of ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and cayenne
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 Tbs. light or dark brown sugar
  • 16 pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced crosswise into thirds
  • 1 Tbs. drained capers, rinsed
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on three servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 380
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 180
  • Fat (g): 20
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13
  • Cholesterol (mg): 85
  • Sodium (mg): 1460
  • Carbohydrates (g): 15
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 33


  • Trim the chicken, removing the tenders, and slice on an angle into 3/4- inch-thick pieces and season generously with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cayenne. Put the garlic on top of the spices and set aside.
  • In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until the oil is hot enough to shimmer. Add half of the chicken and cook, flipping once, until lightly browned and just barely cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate; repeat with the remaining chicken. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Return the pan to medium heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and then the onion. Sauté, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon, until the onion is softened and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spices and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 20 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, smearing the paste around the pan with the back of the spoon, for about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and scrape the pan with the spoon to loosen any browned bits. Let the wine simmer until the mixture looks like a coarse, wet paste, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, the brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Adjust the heat as needed to bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the olives and capers. Simmer gently uncovered for another 5 minutes. Taste the sauce; add salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the sauce and turn to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the basil.

Pour a wine with both fruity and herbal qualities and light tannins. Try a young Grenache-based blend from the Côtes du Rhône.   —Tim Gaiser


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Reviews (12 reviews)

  • ehurwitch | 09/01/2020

    I have made this several times since I first saw it in the magazine. Even years later it's still a family favorite! The spice mix is awesome.

  • poodle1 | 06/05/2016

    this is amazing!!Our go-to yummy/spicy quick meal. Gathering the spices is the only time consuming part so I've gathered them together to speed the process. Lovely!

  • Evans_mom | 12/11/2014

    This was a super quick meal which looked and tasted like fine dining. Loved it

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