This Christmas, a friend of mine – Chef Dave Jones of Log Haven – gave me an awesome cookbook called OAXACA: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Bricia Lopez. The Lopez family owns and operates Los Angeles’ renown Mexican restaurant Guelaguetza.
I’ve spent many months in Oaxaca, but have never found an English language cookbook that captures the vibrant flavors of Oaxacan cuisine until now. This recipe for Pollo en Barbacoa (Chicken Barbacoa) is an excellent one that I made a few minor changes to. Give it a try!
- 10 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 white onion, quartered
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 2 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 chicken, cut into pieces, skin and excess fat removed
- 10 dried avocado leaves (available in Latin food markets)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Bring 4-5 cups water to a boil in a medium pot and add the chiles. Turn the heat off and let them soak for 20 minutes or until chiles are softened. Drain the chiles.
3. In a dry comal or cast-iron skillet, toast the onion, garlic and spices (except salt) until lightly charred and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
4. Peel the garlic and place the garlic cloves into a blender along with the onion and toasted spices.
5. In a small pot over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, tomatillos and ¼ cup water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. In the blender with the garlic, onion and spices, add the softened chiles, tomatoes and tomatillos with their water, and salt. Puree until smooth. Add water a tablespoon at a time if the chile sauce is too thick.
7. Place the chicken pieces into a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot and pour the spiced chile mixture from the blender over the chicken. Mix well and top the chicken with avocado leaves.
8. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and nearly falling off the bone.
Serve with tortillas or a side dish such as Arroz Amarillo.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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