Smoked Chicken with Crispy Tapioca & Ropa Viejo from Atlas Dining

Image of food

Just a stone's throw from Prahran Market, you'll find Atlas Dining, Chef Charlie Carrington's globe-trotting restaurant. They explore a new cuisine every three months, and this recipe hails from their recent Cuban adventure before they head to Indonesia for the summer.

09 November 2023

Serves 4: Begin recipe one day prior to serving


For the smoked chicken

1 shallot, peeled & roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled

30g achiote paste (El Yucateco)

50ml lime juice

100ml extra virgin olive oil

4 chicken Maryland fillets, skin on, boneless

Wood chips, apple or hickory

For the pipian verde

4 green tomatoes, halved

1 jalapeño

1/4 brown onion

2 garlic cloves

1 spring onion

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 small bunch of coriander

1/2 small bunch of parsley

1/2 tsp ground cumin

50ml lime juice

50ml water

20ml olive oil


For the fried plantain

1 green plantain

Frying oil


In a food processor, puree the shallot, garlic, achiote, lime juice and olive oil to form a smooth paste. Add a splash of water if needed to loosen. Add the chicken to a bowl with the paste and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.

Add the tapioca & polenta to a saucepan with the milk and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, whisking frequently for 8-10 minutes or until the tapioca has softened. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and continue whisking over low heat for another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is incorporated and the mixture is thick & homogenous. Transfer to an oiled baking dish (roughly 26cm x 16cm), smooth the top, cover with baking paper and refrigerate overnight to set. If you’re in a hurry, you can alternatively freeze for 4 hours.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, achiote & cumin and cook for 1 minute or until aromatic and beginning to colour. Add the garlic, onion & oregano & stir to combine. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the onions are caramelised. Add the capsicum, coriander, paprika, nutmeg and tomato paste and stir to combine, cooking for a further 5 minutes. Deglaze with the wine and once reduced by half, add the tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil then reduce slightly and cook out for 15 minutes or until the acidity of the tomatoes has subsided.

Meanwhile, chop the capers and parsley to form a rough paste. Add this to the ropa viejo and season to taste with sugar and salt. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Heat a griddle or BBQ over high heat. Once almost smoking, add the green tomatoes, jalapeño, onion, garlic and spring onion and grill until lightly charred all over. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, blend the charred vegetables with the pumpkin seeds, coriander leaves and stems, parsley leaves & cumin to form an aromatic green paste. Add the lime juice, water, olive oil & salt gradually until the desired consistency and flavour is reached.

To hot smoke the chicken, create a small boat out of aluminium foil, fill with wood chips and place in the base of a heavy saucepan or roasting tray. Top with a roasting rack and place the chicken on top. Tightly cover with a lid and place over a medium heat until the chips start to smoke. Reduce the heat slightly and continue smoking for 20 minutes. Finish cooking the chicken by pan frying, skin side down over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through, turning halfway.

Once the tapioca is set, turn it out of the baking dish and portion into 3cm cubes.

Heat a medium saucepan of neutral frying oil to 180C. Add the tapioca cubes and fry for 2-4 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy on the edges. Set aside on absorbent paper towel.

Peel the plantain and slice lengthways on a mandoline slicer to 2 mm thick. Add the slices of plantain to the hot oil and fry for 30-60 second or until golden and crisp.

To Serve


1 avocado, peeled and quartered

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced with a peeler and refreshed in iced water

Handful of mizuna or rocket leaves


Divide the ropa veijo between plates and use the back of a spoon to smear a circle in the centre of each plate. Top with a piece of chicken. Place a wedge of avocado and a cube of fried tapioca on each plate. Top with the plantain crisps, celery ribbons and mizuna leaves. Serve with the pipian verde and enjoy immediately.

For the crispy tapioca

500g tapioca pearls

125g polenta

1L full cream milk

125ml water

500g cheddar cheese

17g salt

Pinch of white pepper

Spray oil

For the ropa viejo

Can be made in advance and will keep for about 1 week

50ml oil

1 bay leaf

10g achiote paste (El Yucateco)

2 tsp ground cumin

6 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced

2 brown onions, peeled & sliced

2 tsp Mexican oregano

4 red capsicums, grilled, peeled & sliced

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp tomato paste

250ml white wine

500g tinned chopped tomatoes

4 tbsp capers, rinsed

1/2 cup parsley leaves

Sugar, to taste

Salt, to taste

Image of cutlery

Discover more

Image of food