Chicken Stew with Cilantro-Tomatillo Sauce

It’s been a while since I’ve made dinner using an existing recipe that I’ve followed (more or less) as it was written – but that’s what I did tonight, and it turned out great.  My most recent email from Whole Foods included a recipe for a Guatemalan Chicken Stew that was filled with many of my favorite ingredients – tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeno, onions, toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds.  The changes I made were very minor – I increased the amount of tomatillo sauce (in fact, I almost doubled the amount of tomatillos called for in the original recipe, which might be why my sauce was a lot more green – it looked a lot like guacamole – than the photo on the Whole Foods website).

My only addition was to squeeze fresh lime juice over the stew right before serving, which I think improved the flavor (I do this a lot when I want to brighten up a dish). With these few changes, here is how I made their Guatemalan Chicken Stew.

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot combine:

  • 6 skinless (bone-in) chicken thighs (mine weighed just over 1.5 pounds)
  • 3 skinless (bone-in) chicken breasts (about 2.25 pounds)
  • 1.75 pounds tomatillos – remove the husks and scrub them clean of sticky residue
  • 3 jalapenos, stems removed and cut in half (I removed the seeds and most of the ribs – the broth was still somewhat spicy, but the final stew was relatively mild; if you prefer something spicier leave in some seeds and ribs)
  • 6 cups water

Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (about 25 minutes).  I removed the tomatillos with a slotted spoon well before the chicken was done – after about 10-15 minutes. By this point they were really soft and starting to fall apart. When the chicken is done, add the jalapeno halves to the tomatillos, then transfer the chicken pieces to a rimmed baking pan until cool enough to handle. Remove the chicken from bones and shred.

While the chicken is cooking, heat in a large skillet:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

When the olive oil is shimmering add:

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (I used stems and leaves)
  • 10 green onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers (core, seeds, and ribs removed), chopped

Cook, stirring frequently, until the green pepper is soft  (about 15 minutes). Set aside.

Working in batches (being careful not to fill your blender more than half-full in any batch) place the following in a blender and mix until smooth:

  • 4 cups leftover broth from cooked chicken (reserve the rest for another use – I plan to freeze the leftover broth; I’m sure I’ll come up with something interesting to do with it)
  • green pepper mixture
  • tomatillos
  • jalapenos
  • 3/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (put pumpkin seeds in batches in a nonstick skillet and cook over medium-high heat – stirring or shaking the pan constantly – until they are just toasted)
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds (toast them just as for the pumpkin seeds, but keep a very close eye on them – they will burn easily)
  • 4 corn tortillas, torn into pieces

Place back into your dutch oven:

  • blended tomatillo mixture
  • shredded chicken

Cook over medium heat until just heated through.  Place into bowls and serve with:

  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges (or just squeeze lime juice into each bowl)
  • warmed corn tortillas, if desired
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