Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Piloncillo Sauce

Most of the Mexican cooking I've done is based on recipes from Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, and the few times we've travelled to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca. We've made some amazing dishes having been inspired from those sources, several of which I've reported on in this blog. However recently PBS has had a really great show on the weekends, Pati's Mexican Table with the most pleasant of hosts, Pati Jinich. I find the recipes on the show to be remarkably different from what I've become used to, and as a result, have really gotten into them. My first impression is that where Rick's dishes seem geared towards dishes you might find in a restaurant, Pati's seem to be much more what you find in someone's home in Mexico.
This recipe is one of those that I viewed on a Saturday morning and went out to recreate that same evening. We have a couple of local markets I use when cooking Mexican; Monterey Market (for their avocados) and Mi Tierra (for everything else Mexican) both in Berkeley, CA.

With Pati's blessing, here's my take on the meal.

1 whole free range chicken (I use Mary's in California)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium white onions
3 garlic cloves pounded in a mortar
2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, quartered
4 teaspoons freshly grated piloncillo
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 cups chicken broth

Pati's original recipe calls for dark chicken parts but I use the whole bird, cutting it up like I would to make chicken cacciatore or any braised chicken dish. 

Chicken cut into leg/thighs, wings, and breast halves.

Well-seasoned with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Actually for this, like I usually do with braised meats, I pour some whole pepper and kosher salt into my Thai granite mortar and grind just short of a powder, then rub it all onto the skin.

The tomatillos pre-husked and pre-rinsed. The husks are like paper that you can just rub off, but the resulting fruit under them, which look like little green tomatoes, tend to be pretty sticky so needs to be rinsed by rubbing them under running water.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot add the chicken pieces. Brown on one side for a few minutes, then flip over and brown on the other side.

I seared the chicken parts in the canola oil in my large iron Dutch oven over a pretty good heat to get a good color on the skins. Since I used the entire chicken I seared in two separate batches to allow room for the meat to sear well.

Searing meat, second batch yet to cook and the quartered tomatillos.

I sliced the onions into half moons fairly thinly.

Quartered tomatillos again.

I pounded the garlic in a pinch of salt to get a paste. It just seems that garlic can impart a bit more flavor when I prepare it this way but easy to burn so have to keep on eye on it once it hits the heat.

Add the onion to the oven and cook, stirring for a few minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds.

Make room in the oven and add the tomatillos, allowing everything to cook together for a few minutes.

Here's the piloncillo, a brown cone of pure sugar used in Mexican cooking, and what I grated of it for the dish.
Again the grated piloncillo and the chipotle with some of the adobo sauce on the side ready to add to the oven.
This is a pot of chicken broth that I made from backs, necks and frozen leftover parts from various meals with chicken. I consider homemade broth so superior to the canned stuff or cubes that I make it on a regular basis and keep it frozen in containers to use when a recipe calls for it. It's not hard at all to make and although takes a few hours, you can schedule it while you're doing other things around the house as it can sit alone and simmer once you've gotten it underway. I'll blog about making broth soon in another post.

Add the piloncillo, chipotles, and the adobo sauce and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer, incorporate the chicken pieces along with the broth and cook for about a half hour, stirring occasionally.

When done the sauce should be chunky and thick, and the chicken fully cooked.

This is the dish just prior to serving.

And here's the plating. I'd made some guacamole (posted earlier) and some tortillas from masa along with brown rice to soak up the sauce. A little Cholula sauce and a bottle of Negro Modelo didn't hurt either.

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