Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tomatillo chicken with piloncillo

We got rid of cable several years ago and haven't looked back.  Having rabbit ears on our TV does get annoying, especially when large planes running powerful radar are doing touch-and-gos at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McCord, but we're used to getting about four channels now.

About a month ago I was watching PBS and came across a show making things with tomatillo.  I was intrigued because they were in season (and are still readily available).  The first two things she made were not new to me.  Then she made something she called "Pollo con Tomate Verde, Chipotle y Piloncillo": chicken with tomatillo, chipotle, and piloncillo.

Now she had my attention!  Piloncillo is that brown cone-shaped thing you may have seen either in the produce or Hispanic sections of the grocery store.  I'd seen them before but never knew what it was or what to do with it.
It turns out it's just unrefined cane sugar that's been pressed into a very hard cone.  To use it, you simply grate it.  At around $1.50 each, they're cheap and apparently they last indefinitely.  And it you don't have one, it's can be replaced with regular brown sugar.
I made her recipe and let me tell you: it's delicious.  Because Gene doesn't like onions, I pureed the sauce once it was done and served the dish with brown rice.  There was not a single peep from the peanut gallery about the onion content.  It was mildly sweet, tangy, and had just enough kick to be interesting.  I made it with chicken thighs.  Make yours with whichever cut of chicken you prefer. 
If you like spicy food, use 2 chipotle chilis, otherwise 1 is enough.  I hate opening a jar of chilis in adobo because I rarely get around to using that rest of it.  If you have this problem, freeze the leftover chilis and sauce in an ice cube tray and then transfer the cubes to a plastic baggy later.  Don't forget to label the bag.  One time I made spaghetti sauce with cilantro instead of basil.  It was unforgettably wretched.
CHICKEN IN A TOMATILLO, CHIPOTLE AND BROWN SUGAR SAUCERecipe from Pati's Mexican TableServes 4 to 6INGREDIENTS3 chicken leg quarters, or a combo of drumsticks and thighs, rinsed and patted dry 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground 1/4 cup safflower or corn oil2 cups white onion, sliced 2 garlic cloves, chopped 2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, quartered 4 tbsp piloncillo, shredded, or substitute for brown sugar 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus more sauce if desired 2 cups chicken broth, or water
TO PREPARE Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

In a thick and tall heavy skillet or casserole dish, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken pieces. Brown on one side, for about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and brown on the other side, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Don't try to flip too soon or the skin will stick to the skillet. Remove the chicken pieces and place in a bowl. You may remove the skin if you wish, I don't.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring for about 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, for about 20 seconds. Make room in the pan and add the tomatillos. Let it cook all together, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the piloncillo, the chipotles and their sauce and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer incorporate the chicken pieces along with the chicken broth and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be chunky and thick, and the chicken fully cooked.

(I apologize for not using any of my own pics.  I did take some when I was preparing this recipe a full month ago but haven't had time to download them from the camera.  Indeed, just while writing this post I've over-steeped a full French press of coffee and Kaelen has fallen once and bonked his head.)

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