When I was in college and then later in graduate school, I spent long stretches of time in Oaxaca, Mexico, including a full summer there. Oaxaca is well known for its marvelous moles, but I also like barbacoa, which is meat and other foods slow-cooked until very tender. This recipe for pollo en barbacoa is a delicious one that I found in a cookbook called Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, by Bricia Lopez. It’s a terrific cookbook and this is a delicious dish.
- 10 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- ¼ tsp. black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 sliver of a cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp sea salt
- 1 whole chicken cut into eight pieces, trimmed of excess fat and skin
- 10 avocado leaves
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Bring 4½ cups water to a boil in a medium pot and add the chiles. Turn off the heat and let soak for 20 minutes or until the chiles are softened.
- In a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast each of the following ingredients 5-7 minutes until evenly toasted: garlic, onion, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and oregano.
- In a molcajete or mini-chopper or food processor, grind the garlic, onion, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and oregano as best as you can until finely ground.
- In a small pot over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, tomatillos, and ¼ cup water. Boil for 25 minutes or until the tomatillos start to pop.
- In a blender, combine the softened chiles, cooked tomatoes and tomatillos, the ground onion, garlic and spices and the salt. Blend until completely smooth.
- Put the chicken in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and add the spiced chile mixture from the blender and avocado leaves. Mix well, cover, and cook in the oven for an hour. The chicken should be fall-apart tender and the sauce should be the texture of a pan sauce. If the chicken still isn’t tender, cover and cook for another 20 minutes.
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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.