Ever have one of those days where the only thing that gets you through is knowing you are going to have a good meal later on? I have no idea where I read about this dish, but one day, trying to unwind after a long, frustrating and tiring day of putting out the fires that are usually started by teenage drama (I moonlight as a school counselor, in case you forgot), a mental picture of this dish formed in my head and I immediately went to the store to try and make it. This dish is definitely not for the nut-hater. But, maybe it could be? As a girl who used to eat peanut butter on a spoon every day for breakfast (I’ve now matured to peanut butter spread on multigrain toast), this dish made me very, very happy.
It’s not surprising that Pollo en Salsa de Cacahuate is a traditional dish from Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is often thought of as the gastronomic mecca of Central Mexico and happens to be the birthplace of mole, that beautiful, dark, chocolatey sauce made of over thirty ingredients including nuts and seeds, and pipians, another sweet yet savory sauce using ground nuts and seeds. Peanuts have been part of Mexican cooking since long before Spain invaded in the 15th century and are often used as a thickening agent. Poblano cuisine, specifically, is typically made of indigenous and local ingredients and, let me tell you, Pueblo is on my “must go” lists of places to travel to (and eat, eat, eat in).
Traditionally, this dish should be made with dried chiles. We used dried chiles in ours and I really just wanted to kick it up, so I added some chipotles in adobo. For me, it added extra spice and the adobo added more flavor than the dried chiles did. In fact, I think you could leave out the dried chiles if you don’t have any on hand and just add some chipotles in adobo. It’s rare I’ll move away from the traditional but, in this case, flavor-wise I think it would be ok. I also did not make this in a mortar and pestle and, again, although not traditional, a blender worked just fine.
- 2 to 3 lbs. of chicken pieces with skin
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup unsalted raw peanuts, lightly roasted till brown
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 dried pasilla (or guajillo) chiles, rehydrated and chopped up
- 3 chipotles in adobo + some of the adobo (if you don’t like it spicy, start with 1 or 2 and decide if you want to add more)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic),whole
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- optional: 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
- squeeze of lime
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- hot chicken stock
- some oil
- Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and saute in a bit of oil until brown all over. When skin has taken on color and is a bit crispy, remove to a plate.
- In a separate dry pan, brown peanuts – this doesn’t take long – about 30 seconds if that. Don’t burn them! Take off heat and keep on the side.
- Add a bit more oil if necessary and throw in your garlic, onions and rehydrated pasilla and saute until they take on some color and the onions soften.
- In a blender, first add the onion, garlic and pasilla mixture and blend with a bit of warm chicken stock. Try to puree it as best as possible. Add the chipotles along with a tablespoon of adobo and blend. Add the peanuts to the blender along with another bit of chicken stock and puree until smooth. You do not want the texture of the sauce to be like peanut butter, you want it smooth with some liquid in it. Add the cinnamon, clove and some fresh ground pepper. Blend. Taste the sauce for extra seasoning. Does it need more salt or pepper? Do you like it spicier? Add more adobo or whole chipotles if you do. Add a bit more chicken stock so it is not too thick.
- When sauce is as you like it, bring it back to the pan you cooked the chicken in and add some along with a bit more chicken stock. With a spoon, pick up all the goodness that collected at the bottom of the pan and stir. Add the chicken to the pan, add a bit more sauce along with a bit more stock and allow chicken to simmer for another fifteen to twenty minutes. Add a squeeze of lime juice to the sauce. Serve with some rice and enjoy.