Main Courses

Deliciously Sweet: Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce

It seems that many people find chicken boring.

I happen to find it fascinating.

Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up.

When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.

Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.

I have that dissonant image of them plucking those birds, because if you had met my grandmother, you would have probably thought, like me, that she was one elegant and classy lady. Here’s an old photo I found (do excuse my 80’s bangs and shoulder pads…)

Tamarind Chicken 2-thumb-510x353-1397
Ok, now that I was going through old albums, I found this other one. And I think that my mom happens to be a classy lady too… (aside from the bangs and shoulder pads, I am wearing one of those Wang Chung vests, remember?)

Tamarind Chicken 3-thumb-510x353-1399
My Lali, as we called my grandmother, was an extraordinary cook. I could write down pages and pages listing the dishes she made that I loved. My favorite ones always had a sweet spin to them. The roasted duck with the plum sauce, the chicken paprika with sweet pimientos, the stuffed cabbage with that heart warming sauce…

If I could have my Lali over for Rosh Hashanah next week, I would treat her with the Chicken with Tamarind and Apricots I learned to make from Flora Cohen right before I got married. A cookbook writer and teacher from Syrian ancestry, who like my grandmother, was an immigrant who made Mexico her home bringing along exotic flavors from her birthplace. Flora was known to turn ignorant brides, who did not know how to boil an egg, into competent cooks who could bring bliss to the tummies of their new husbands (hey, at least my husband didn’t starve in those first years…)

And just like many of my Lali’s dishes, from Austria, Flora’s Syrian meals took a joy ride with Mexico’s native ingredients.

People wonder about the existence of Jewish Mexican cuisine. This dish is but one example. After I was asked to teach a class on Jewish Mexican cooking, I realized it could have been an ongoing series. Just a small window into the fascinating twists and turns that foods take on as they travel through the world in unimaginable kinds of luggage and intermingle with their new homes…

But for now, I leave you with this chicken, which can become a staple in your home. That’s how good it is.

After you rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper…

Chicken with Tamarind 3
Don’t remove the skin! PLEASE!! It WILL turn crispy and it will also help the chicken be extra moist and flavorful.

Chicken with Tamarind 4
Heat the oil in a large and deep skillet over low heat. Place the chicken skin side down. You don’t want the chicken pieces to be cramped on top of each other, if they are, use two skillets.

The chicken is going to brown for an hour. I know this sounds like a lot of time, but you can make the rest of your dinner during that time, like your rice, pasta or salad.  Browning the chicken like this, flipping it once or twice in between, makes the skin crisp and the fat underneath the skin melt. Slowly, deliciously. It makes the chicken so juicy and soft, it practically comes off the bone!

After about an hour the chicken looks like this.

Chicken with Tamarind 5
It is already flavorful as it has basted in its own juices… Now lets take it a step further.

Pour the water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer.

Chicken with Tamarind 6
Pour the tamarind concentrate. You can easily make the concentrate at home, or buy it in most Latin or International stores. If you don’t find concentrate, but find tamarind paste, dilute 2 tablespoons of the paste and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 3/4 cup warm water. The tamarind brings a rich and tangy flavor to the dish…

Chicken with Tamarind 7
Add a couple generous tablespoons of apricot jam.

Chicken with Tamarind 8
Spoon the Chipotles in Adobo sauce, or if you want it more piquant, drop in a couple whole Chiles in there too… Their smoky and sweet flavors complement the rest of the ingredients.

Chicken with Tamarind 9
Stir in the chopped dried apricots. I found some Turkish ones at the store, with a deeper brown color. They were so meaty…

Chicken with Tamarind 10
Stir it all and bring it to a steady medium simmer, for about 35 minutes more. The sauce will have thickened and become outrageously sticky (sticky in a really good way). I love the chunks of apricot in there.

Chicken with Tamarind 11
A Sephardic dish with a Mexican influence. Perfect for holidays, this chicken dish is a crowd pleaser. A bit spicy, a bit sweet, a bit tangy, crisp and moist… It can be one of those safe cards to play, just like that passed down brisket recipe…

Chicken with Tamarind 12
Now, I didn’t have to kill and pluck a chicken, but I think my Lali would be pleased. I learned my lesson well, and I am trying to learn to cook chicken, in more than a thousand
tasty ways.

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce

If I could have my Lali over for Rosh Hashanah next week, I would treat her with the Chicken with Tamarind and Apricots I learned to make from Flora Cohen right before I got married. A cookbook writer and teacher from Syrian ancestry, who like my grandmother, was an immigrant who made Mexico her home bringing along exotic flavors from her birthplace. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: apricot, chicken, chile, chipotles in adobo, Recipe, Tamarind
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces, plus two more pieces of your choice, with skin and bones
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup safflower or corn oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 pound dried apricots about 3/4 cup, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 3/4 cup tamarind concentrate can be store bought or homemade (recipe follows), or substitute with 2 tablespoons tamarind paste mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 3/4water
  • 2 tablespoons Chipotles in adobo sauce or more to taste, add chiles if you please

Instructions

  • Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • In a deep extended skillet, heat oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add chicken pieces in one layer, bring heat to medium-low, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for one hour. Turn them over every once in a while, so they will brown evenly on all sides.
  • Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer. Incorporate the apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce and salt and stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 to 40 minutes more. You may need to bring down the heat to medium.
  • The sauce should have thickened considerably as to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Taste for salt and heat and add more salt or chipotle sauce to your liking.

Notes

Pollo con Salsa de Tamarindo, Chabacano y Chipotle

More Chorizo to Love

Right off the bat, you must understand: I heart chorizo. Especially the kind I grew up eating in Mexico. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat that, once fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses. My oldest son’s quick choice for breakfast is chorizo fried until it browns and crisps, with a side of white toast.  Add some lightly beaten eggs as the chorizo is starting to brown and some ripe and creamy avocado slices on the side, and that’s my kind of rich-tasting brunch dish. Of course chorizo is delicious in sandwiches, in tacos and quesadillas, on top of enchiladas, in mashed potatoes, as a topping for heartier salads, in some of the tastiest bean dishes I have tried, in pastas with a ton of personality and on pizzas with pickled jalapeño peppers on top.

I am really trying to stop myself here…

When I moved to the United States, more than a dozen years ago, I was thrilled to find chorizo in international grocery stores. Lately, I have been intrigued and surprised to see that my Mexican chorizo is now accompanied by many other kinds in the refrigerated sections of bigger, more mainstream stores: Argentine, Colombian, Guatemala, Salvadoran and Honduran chorizos have arrived. Like the Mexican kind, some of those varieties are being made with chicken, turkey or beef in addition to pork. There is even kosher chorizo, made with beef, at Koshermart in Rockville and vegan chorizo at Trader Joe’s (which I haven’t felt the urge to try). Many come in spicy, spicier, spiciest and hotter than hot.

Through Sunday afternoon asados, or grilling parties, at friends’ houses and trips to Argentina, I had become familiar with the garlicky chorizo Argentinians are so proud of. But I was clueless about the other kinds. So I shocked my regular grocer by buying a variety of links, then cooked them at home to sample the differences, filling my kitchen with chorizo-tinged smoke. Later, on a cold and rainy day in November, I set out to explore the chorizo universe, including local manufacturers, in this part of the Americas.

It was clear from the start that Latin chorizos share a common difference from Spanish ones. Most Latin chorizos are made with heavily spiced, freshly ground meat, and the must be cooked. Spanish chorizos typically are dried and smoked cured links of chopped meat, seasoned mainly with garlic and paprika; they tend to be ready-to-eat and have a salami-like soft and chewy bite.

Although Spaniards introduced the pid and the techniques of making chorizo to most of Latin America, through the centuries chorizos were adapted with local flavors and ingredients. (The Spaniards, for their part, borrowed paprika from those new lads and made it one of their signature chorizo seasonings.) Interestingly, the version that took root in Latin soil was raw and uncured, which is the least-common kind in Spain.

Latin chorizos differ greatly from one another in flavor. Mexican is the spiciest of the lot. It also has the most complex layering of flavors, and I won’t deny that it’s my favorite. Mexican chorizos can have variations as well, but they generally contain dried chili peppers such as ancho, pasilla, guajillo and/or chipotle; a mix of spices that might include oregano, cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, cinnamon, coriander seed, allspice, paprika, achiote and cloves; most times garlic and sometimes onion; and always vinegar, which makes the meat flake or crumble as it browns and gives it a welcome hint of acidity.

If you like really spicy sausage, Chorizo Cabal of Fairfax produces a Mexican one called Perrón, which translates from Mexican-Spanish slang as brave or aggressive. It’s clear as soon as you see the label: A fierce dog looks ready to give you the bite of your life.

For a chorizo that isn’t spicy but has a colorful pungency, the way to go is Salvadoran. That happens to be the favorite of Clifford Logan Jr., vice president of the Logan Sausage Co. in Alexandria. His company sold 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of its Latin-style fresh chorizos in the Washington area last month. Logan is so passionate about chorizos that when asked to describe them, he seemed to be poetically describing bottles of wine: “The Salvadoran,” he began, with a deep romantic sigh and a sudden distant gaze, “has a robust flavor and a subtle finish.”

It seems that around Washington, Mexican and Salvadoran chorizos have been wrestling for bragging rights for a long time. Chorizo Cabal sells more Salvadoran chorizo than Mexican (except in grilling season, when the Argentine chorizo is most popular); Logan Sausage sells twice as much Mexican chorizo as Salvadoran. But the choice has as much to do with flavor and recipes as with the local immigrant population and the popularity of each cuisine. Companies often start to produce chorizos based on where the owner or employees come from; immigrants nostalgic for the flavors of home find a way to replicate their native recipes.

The companies’ Mexican, Honduran and Salvadoran chorizos are made with vinegar, yet the Honduran kind is much more sedate. The Guatemalan, Logan says, is somewhere in between the Salvadoran and Honduran, flavor-wise. Betty Guerrero, who runs Chorizo Cabal, agrees, and revealed to me that a bit of spearmint is added to Cabal’s Guatemalan spice mix. Colombian chorizo is plain and quite salty. The Argentine kind has white wine and a heavy dose of garlic in its mix, as well as oregano, nutmeg and a bit of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes. It seems to me that Argentine-style chorizo really lets the flavor of the meat shine through. (See “Use this for that,” above.)

Of course, different brands and regions have different variations, which some purists question, especially when borders are crossed. Guerrero says, “My mother tells me that this is not the way chorizo is made in Mexico, that I am changing the ingredients, that I am changing its ways.” But Guerrero, an experienced chorizo maker, says her company sells about 50,000 pounds of chorizo per month.

One thing I have noticed is that chorizos made in the United States have less fat than those I knew and ate in Latin America. Logan and Guerrero confirmed that, saying their chorizos are made with no more than 20 percent fat. Typically, Mexican chorizo contains at least 30 percent fat. Whole Foods Market makes its own chorizo with no more than 15 percent fat, according to company spokeswoman Katie Hunsberger.

Another thing purists might question is why parts of the chorizo-making process are simplified here. For example, chorizo shops in Mexico soak and puree whole dried chili peppers and add fresh garlic and onion. Chorizo makers here, including Cabal and Logan, generally use custom-made prepared spice mixes that come with already-ground chili peppers and dehydrated garlic.

According to these producers, the mixes not only are convenient but also help ensure quality: “Dried garlic imparts flavor and doesn’t turn black as quickly as fresh garlic does,” Clifford Logan says. They also promote consistency. Hunsberger says that Whole Foods works with Barron’s spices to create a spice mix for its house brand.

No wonder chorizo makers are hesitant to share ingredient information. Their recipes are treated as highly classified state secrets that outsourced spice companies are legally forbidden to share. Dealing with such sacred formulas also may explain why many chorizo companies have longstanding and loyal employees.

Or maybe they just heart chorizo, like me.

Article written for and published by The Washington Post click here. 

Cowboy Charro Beans
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5 from 6 votes

Cowboy Charro Beans

Cowboy Charro Beans recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 2 “Foods of the Mexican Revolution”
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bacon, beans, black beans, Chorizo, jalapeno, pati’s mexican table, Peruvian beans, pinto beans, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 6 oz sliced uncooked bacon chopped
  • 8 oz fresh uncooked Mexican chorizo casings removed, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped more or less to taste, seeded if desired
  • 1/2 lb roma tomatoes about 2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt plus more as needed
  • 5 cups cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid or substitute with black or Peruvian beans

Instructions

  • Cook the bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Add the chopped chorizo; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to brown and crisp. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces.
  • Add the chopped onion and jalapeño; mix well and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, letting them soften a bit. Add the tomatoes and mix well; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes soften and appear mushy.
  • Add the cooked beans and their cooking liquid; mix well and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the beans are moist but not soupy. Add a bit more water if needed. Taste, and add more salt to your taste. Serve hot.

Notes

Frijoles Charros con Tocino y Chorizo
Mexican style pasta
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Mexican Style Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Chorizo & Fresh Cream

Mexican Style Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Chorizo & Fresh Cream recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 9 “Chorizo”
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, chipotles in adobo, Chorizo, mexican crema, pasta, pati’s mexican table, queso fresco, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs ripe Roma tomatoes about 6 to 8 tomatoes
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup tomato cooking liquid
  • 1/2 medium white onion coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz fresh uncooked Mexican chorizo casings removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
  • 8 oz dried spaghetti, angel hair or fettuccine broken into smaller pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 tbsp sauce from canned chipotles in adobo plus 1 whole canned chipotle chile for more heat (optional)
  • 6 oz queso fresco, farmer’s cheese, or a mild feta crumbled
  • Mexican or Latin cream as much as needed (!) or substitute for creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 ripe Mexican avocado halved, peeled, cut into slices

Instructions

  • Place tomatoes and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked, they look mushy and the skins have started to come off.
  • Transfer the tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and garlic to a blender along with the onion, salt and pepper. Let cool slightly and puree until smooth.
  • Cook the chorizo in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until it has browned and crisped; use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked chorizo to a bowl.
  • Add oil to the same skillet used to cook the chorizo, over medium-high heat. Add the spaghetti or fettuccine pieces and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the pasta changes color and starts to brown. Do not let it burn!!
  • Pour the tomato puree on the pasta. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens and the color darkens to a deeper red. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and adobo sauce, plus a whole chipotle chile in adobo, if desired.
  • Mix well, cook uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking, until the pasta is cooked through and the tomato sauce has thickened considerably. Discard the bay leaves.
  • Add the chorizo and stir to incorporate. Divide among individual plates; serve hot, topped with crumbled cheese, fresh cream and avocado slices.

Notes

Pasta Seca con Jitomate, Chorizo y Crema
Print Recipe
4.58 from 7 votes

Potato, Scallion & Chorizo Crispy Tacos

Potato, Scallion & Chorizo Crispy Tacos recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 9 “Chorizo”
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Chorizo, corn tortillas, pati’s mexican table, potatoes, salsa verde, scallions, Taco
Servings: 5 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 lb red bliss potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 oz fresh uncooked Mexican chorizo sausage casings removed, coarsely chopped
  • 8 scallions white and light green parts thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 10-12 Corn tortillas
  • safflower oil for frying
  • Salsa verde or any salsa of your choice

Instructions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potato pieces, once the water returns to a boil, cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain.
  • Place the chorizo in a large skillet over medium-high heat. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to crumble it into smaller pieces. Once it browns and crisps, 5 to 6 minutes, add the scallions and stir to combine; cook for about 1 minute or until the scallions begin to soften.
  • Add the cooked potatoes and salt, mashing them into the chorizo mixture with a potato masher or a wooden spoon, for about 1 minute until well combined. Remove from the heat. Taste, add salt as needed.
  • Heat a dry, medium skillet over medium heat. Warm the tortillas in the skillet one at a time for 15 to 30 seconds on each side, to soften them for rolling and so they will not crack as you assemble tacos.
  • Place a few tablespoons of the filling on the center of each heated tortilla, and roll, as tightly as you can, into a taco. Insert a wooden toothpick through taco pairs, through the seams to help them retain their roll shape as they cook. When they have all been rolled, finish the tacos by either frying or toasting them.

To fry the tacos:

  • Pour enough oil into a large skillet to a depth of about 1 inch, place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, 4 to 6 minutes, fry the tacos in batches, placing them in the skillet, without crowding them. They oil should be bubbling as they cook. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, until the bottom and sides have crisped and turned golden. Use tongs to turn over the tacos, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Continue until all the tacos have been fried.

To toast the tacos:

  • Heat a large, dry skillet or comal over medium heat. Working in batches, place the tacos in the skillet. Let them toast and heat for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the tacos are browned and crisped, then flip to the other side and toast until evenly browned and crisp.
  • Remove all toothpicks; serve warm.

Notes

Tacos Crujientes de Papa, Cebollita y Chorizo
sweet potato salad
Print Recipe
4.8 from 5 votes

Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Chorizo

Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Chorizo recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 9 "Chorizo"
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Chorizo, cilantro, jalapeno, orange juice, pati’s mexican table, sweet potato
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into bite-size chunks, about 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup orange juice preferably freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz fresh uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper stemmed and seeded if less heat is desired
  • 1/3 cup red onion chopped
  • 1/3 cup cilantro chopped

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potato pieces, once it comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium; simmer for about 10 minutes, until almost tender and a knife can go through without breaking a piece. Drain, and transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold the pieces almost in a single layer.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Whisk together orange juice, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them after about 10 minutes, until the potato pieces have started to brown and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven.
  • Meanwhile, cook the chorizo in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; use a wooden spoon of spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. After 5 to 6 minutes, when it has nicely browned and crisped, use a slotted spoon to top the hot sweet potatoes.
  • Sprinkle the jalapeño, red onion and cilantro on top, and toss gently to combine. Serve warm.

Notes

Ensalada Calientita de Camote y Chorizo

Pollo Pibil

Last December, Daniel and I went to Yucatán. I was swept off my feet by the grandiose nature and history of the old Haciendas, but mostly by the uniqueness of the cuisine. It stands out from the rest of the country; with its aromatic, pungent, citrus flavors, charred and toasted ingredients and elements not found anywhere else.

Since at the Institute we established topics for the 2009 program in January and I left Yucatán as a December closing session, by the time class came around I was desperate to share these flavors. What a tortuous self imposed wait!

Of course Pollo Pibil had to be included, as it is one of the most loved dishes of the area. The rest of the menu was built around: Dzotobi-chay tamales, Mexican avocado soup, strained beans, a yellow rice, and old fashioned flan for dessert.

Chicken Pibil 1(One of the views inside of Hacienda San José)

Pollo Pibil is made with one of the pillars of Yucatecan cuisine, recado rojo or achiote paste,  which can now be found in many stores or online. If you walk into any market in Yucatán, you will see countless stands boasting colorful mountains of the main recados or pastes: black or chilmole, brown or de bistek, green or pepita and red or achiote.

The word Recado translates to message. In a way, each of the recados has a unique combination of ingredients, which makes a distinct bouillon of sorts, that translates a particular message of flavors into the dishes it is being used in.

They will sell you as much as you want...

Chicken Pibil 2

Or have it ready in previously measured bags…

Chicken PIbil 3

A couple of things distinguish anything cooked Pibil style…

First is the marinade. With achiote paste as a base, it has a rusty brick-like color and a pungent and sort of permanent flavor. That’s because of the achiote seeds it is made with. Then the paste is mixed with oregano, cumin, allspice, black pepper, salt and charred garlic; and diluted with bitter orange, which has a peculiar a flavor, quite different from regular oranges.

Since bitter orange can be hard to come by, many cooks have found substitutes such as a mix of orange juice and vinegar or a mix of different citrus juices. After testing for a while in my kitchen, I found the substitute I like the most to be equal parts of grapefruit, orange and lime juices and white distilled vinegar. The marinade is flavorful and aromatic and, as it has a high acidic content, it tenderizes the meat beautifully.

Chicken Pibil 4(A freshly opened bar of achiote paste, posing for my camera so you can take a look)

The second thing that distinguishes a Pibil is the cooking technique, which is what gave it its name. Traditionally, Pibil meats were marinated, wrapped in banana leaves and placed in “Pibs”: roasting pits buried underground layered with stones and pieces of wood. The “Pib” gave the dish a rustic, earthy and ashy feel while the banana leaves infused the meats with a grassy fragrant flavor and kept them moist.

Since it’s not likely that we are going to dig roasting pits on any given workday in our backyards anytime soon, many cooks have tried to find a method that can accomplish similar results.  Some wrap the chicken or meat in leaves and cook it in a steam bath in a large covered pot, while others do the same in the oven.  However, the dish becomes way too juicy and you are missing that earthy, roasted, ashy flavor.  When you cook in an earthen pit, although the chicken is wrapped, the excess moisture escapes through the pit, so the final dish is not that wet.

Here again, restless me, kept testing in the kitchen. And later then, very happy me, found a great and quick method to obtain similar results. First roast the chicken in the oven (detailed recipe below)  for that charred earthen flavor with the plus of nice browned skin and a thickening and seasoning of the marinade. Then bundle with banana leaves (if you have them) and/or aluminum foil to give it that final cooking that will make the meat come off the bones. Chicken Pibil 5

Chicken Pibil is an absolute hit paired with pickled red onions and a fiery and feisty habanero chile sauce. Yes, its spicy, but it is a welcome shock.

Print Recipe
4.2 from 5 votes

Chicken Pibil Style

Pollo Pibil is made with one of the pillars of Yucatecan cuisine, recado rojo or achiote paste,  which can now be found in many stores or online. If you walk into any market in Yucatán, you will see countless stands boasting colorful mountains of the main recados or pastes: black or chilmole, brown or de bistek, green or pepita and red or achiote.
Prep Time4 hrs 10 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: achiote paste, allspice, banana leaves, bitter orange juice, chicken, chicken broth, cumin, onion, red onion, Tomatoes
Servings: 5 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • A 5 to 6 pound chicken cut in pieces
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned achiote paste or recado rojo
  • 2 cups of bitter orange juice or substitute (1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup grapefruit juice, 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 garlic cloves charred, broiled or toasted and then peeled
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 red onion roughly chopped
  • 2 tomatoes roughly chopped
  • Banana leaves optional

Instructions

  • To make the marinade, place the achiote paste, bitter orange or its substitute, chicken broth, charred garlic cloves, oregano, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper in the blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry. Place in a zip lock bag or container and pour the marinade on top. Make sure all the chicken pieces have been bathed in the marinade. Close or seal the bag or container and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours. Flip and move around the chicken pieces once or twice along the way.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Spread the roughly chopped red onion and tomatoes on a large baking dish/pan. Place the chicken pieces on top of that layer and pour the marinade on top, making sure the pieces are not on top of each other. Place in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until the skin has nicely browned and crisped.
  • Remove the baking dish from the oven. Flip the chicken pieces to the other side and baste with the marinade. If using banana leaves, wrap them around the chicken making a bundle. Cover the whole baking dish with aluminum foil, securing it around the edges. The less steam that is able to escape, the better.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place the baking dish back in the oven and let the chicken bake for about 1 1/2 hours. The chicken should be completely cooked through and almost coming apart from the bones. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Place the chicken on a platter. You may serve whole chicken pieces or remove the meat from the bones. Ladle the remaining sauce into a bowl and either drizzle the sauce over the chicken or serve it on the side. This dish is also delicious with a side of pickled onions and habanero salsa.

Notes

Pollo Pibil

Tex Mex or Mex Tex: Take Two

Talking about American foods enriched by Mexican ingredients, I can’t leave out those tasty, juicy and smoky Ancho Chile hamburgers. My mother used to make them for our birthday parties as me and my sisters grew into teenagers. We felt more hip having funky burgers instead of kid sized tacos. Plus, they were a hit with our friends.

They are a snap to make and for the Mexican spin you just need to prepare a seasoning paste with Ancho Chiles.  Anchos, being ultra mild and somewhat fruity with a hint of prunes, make an instant click with the meat.

My mother used to mix half veal and half beef, when making hamburgers, meatloaf or meatballs. It works out well, but it is not necessary. She used to serve these hamburgers with the traditional American trimmings: sliced onions, tomatoes, fresh lettuce, ketchup and mustard.

But when I was reminiscing with my friend Andrea about these Mexicanized American dishes, she suggested we try a citrusy mayo spread. What a surprise! That tangy spread makes these tasty hamburgers bounce off the walls out of happiness…

I wouldn’t dare call this hamburger traditional Mexican food, although the recipe has been in my family for more than four decades. When you think about it, once an ingredient or a dish of a country enters another country and becomes accepted, it gains a life of its own.

I don’t think there ever is a right or wrong take in the kitchen (Diana Kennedy may just be aiming at me with a rifle now… ). It seems to me that it is all fair game as long as you get to know your ingredients and how to use them. And of course…there has to be a worthwhile and delicious result.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Ancho Chile Mexican Hamburgers with Lime Aioli

Talking about American foods enriched by Mexican ingredients, I can’t leave out those tasty, juicy and smoky Ancho Chile hamburgers. My mother used to make them for our birthday parties as me and my sisters grew into teenagers. We felt more hip having funky burgers instead of kid sized tacos. Plus, they were a hit with our friends. They are a snap to make and for the Mexican spin you just need to prepare a seasoning paste with Ancho Chiles.  Anchos, being ultra mild and somewhat fruity with a hint of prunes, make an instant click with the meat.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time8 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, beef, chile, hamburger, lime, lime aioli, mayonnaise, Recipe, veal
Servings: 8 burgers
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the burgers:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground veal
  • 1 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 ancho chiles rinsed, seeded and soaked (explanation follows)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground, or to taste
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • safflower or corn oil

For the lime aioli:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lime about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon grate lime rind
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the garnishes:

  • 8 hamburger buns
  • yellow mustard
  • ketchup
  • 2 red tomatoes sliced
  • 8 iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 white onion sliced

Instructions

  • Rinse the ancho chiles. On a chopping board, make a slit down their side and take out all of their seeds, veins and stems. Place the cleaned chiles in a small bowl and cover with 1/2 cup boiling hot water. Let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Places chiles in the blender along with the soaking liquid, onion and garlic, and puree until smooth.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and veal. Add the chile mixture, two lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until it is all well incorporated.
  • Heat the griddle or pan over medium heat until very hot, about 6 to 8 minutes. Brush some oil on the griddle or pan.
  • With your hands, mold the patties and place them on the hot griddle or pan. Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on how well cooked you like your burgers. I like them medium-well, so it is about 5 minutes per side for me.
  • Place the garnishes on the table so that everyone can choose to their liking.
  • To make the lime aioli, place everything in a mixing bowl, and just mix it all up!
  • If you want to make this hamburger into a cheeseburger, Monterey jack is a great companion. Just place a slice of cheese on to the burger once you flipped it and let it melt as it finishes cooking.

Notes

Hamburguesas con Chile Ancho y Aioli de Limon


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