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Chicken with Green Pipián

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The Aztecs taught the Spanish about pipián preparations, and a nun later made the idea into the base for mole poblano. This border version gets much of its tang from tomatillos.

Serves6

Cooking Methodsauteeing

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free

Equipmentblender

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, hot & spicy, meaty, nutty, rich, savory, spiced

Ingredients

  • ½ pound whole tomatillos, husked
  • Water
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 garlic doves, unpeeled
  • 2 to 3 fresh jalapenos
  • 1 slice of toast, torn in several pieces
  • 1/3 medium onion, chunked
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground canela or other cinnamon
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably peanut or sesame
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • Minced fresh cilantro and slivered almonds, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, cover the tomatillos with water and simmer for about 10 minutes until tender. Transfer the tomatillos to a blender and reserve.

  2. In a small skillet, toast the almonds just until fragrant and transfer them to the blender. Repeat with the pepitas, sesame seeds, and cumin seeds. To the skillet, add the garlic cloves and the jalapeños. Roast the garlic until browned and softened and the chiles until somewhat blackened and blistered. Transfer the garlic to the blender, and seed the jalapeños and then transfer them to the blender. Add the toast, onion, cilantro, oregano, salt, canela, and stock to the blender. Purée the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth but still a little grainy.

  3. In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken just long enough to lightly brown it. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and reserve it.

  4. Pour the blender mixture into the skillet, being careful to avoid splatters when the liquid hits the hot oil. When the most insistent sputtering dies down, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the orange juice to the sauce and arrange the chicken on the sauce, submerging it partially. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through.

  5. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and surround it with the sauce. Top with a scattering of cilantro and almonds and serve.

  6. Regional Variations: Pipiáns can be red or green, with much of the color coming from the choice of fresh or dried chiles. A number of border recipes call for peanuts rather than almonds, as James W. Peyton recommends in his Cocina de la Frontera (Red Crane Books, 1994). Some cooks add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter to heighten the nutty flavor, or a similar quantity of sherry to increase the depth. In southern Mexico, many people use a sour orange to get the tomatillo tartness in this recipe.

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