Chicken: Chicken in Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Pipian Verde de Pollo)

posted by Mimi Hiller 08-17-101 4:17 PM

Chicken in Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Pipian Verde de Pollo)

6 (about 3 3/4 pounds) bone-in chicken breast halves
1 small white onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon each, dried marjoram and thyme
3 bay leaves
1 1/4 cups (about 6 ounces) hulled untoasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 large romaine lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (2 serranos or 1 jalapeņo, stemmed and roughly chopped)
Leaves from a small sprig of fresh epazote, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons oil, vegetable or olive
2 medium (about 12 ounces total) chayote squash, peeled if want, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium (10 ounces total) zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Poaching the chicken: Measure 2 1/2 quarts of water into large pot. Add half of the onion, half of the garlic, the marjoram and thyme, bay and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then add the chicken breasts and simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes. Cover and let stand off the heat for 10 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Strain broth and skim off any fat that rises to top.

In a heavy medium pot, preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela, dry-toast the pumpkin seeds: Set the pot over medium heat, add the pumpkin seeds and, after the first one pops, stir constantly until all have popped from flat to round, about 5 minutes. Don't let them darken past golden, or the sauce will be brownish or slightly bitter. Cool the pumpkin seeds; set the pot aside. Set aside 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds for garnish and add rest to the blender. Add the remaining onion and garlic to the blender along with the tomatillos, lettuce, chiles, epazote and cilantro. Pour in 1 cup of the strained broth and blend to a smooth puree.

In the pumpkin-seed toasting-pot, heat the oil over medium-high. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once. Stir as the mixture darkens slightly and thickens considerably, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes for the flavors to mellow and the sauce to thicken to a medium consistency.

While the sauce is simmering, steam the chayote in a vegetable steamer for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and steam for 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring everything several times to ensure even cooking. Drain the vegetables and spread out on a plate to stop the cooking.

When sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, it will likely look coarse; I prefer to smooth it to a velvety texture by blending it again in small batches. Return the sauce to the pan, taste it and season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon. If sauce has thickened beyond light-cream consistency, thin it with a little of the remaining broth.

Slip the cooked chicken breasts into the sauce, then add the cooked vegetables. Simmer over medium heat just long enough to heat everything through, about 5 minutes, then spoon the chicken, vegetables and sauce out onto a warm serving platter. Sprinkle with the reserved pumpkin seeds and decorate with epazote and cilantro sprigs.

Serves 6.

From San Fransisco Chronicle 12/00

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