Pollo pibil – Achiote chicken

DSC01318Achiote paste is used in Mayan Yucatán cusine, the most famous dish being cochinita pibil (literally pork cooked in a pit). The deep red paste is made with ground annatto seed. Friends from tropical countries have told me that they just went to their achiote tree and broke open the pods to use the seeds for a fresh flavor. For the rest of us, buy it in a  3 ½ ounce brick in a small paper box at a Mexican market.

Seville OrangesYucatán cooks use sour oranges, called su’uts’ pak’áal in the Mayan language, which are also known as Seville oranges.. If they are hard to find in the your area, you can substitute juices from one orange, one lime, one lemon and one grapefruit.

The chicken is traditionally served with red onions which have been pickled with salt and lime juice.

Lorena del Carmen, a Mayan woman I know here in Berkeley, inspired me with her recipe. She made her chicken a bit differently though. She first boiled it, then split it in half and painted the achiote mixture on the inside of the chicken. She then baked it. But I’m following her recipe for the onions. Although she didn’t measure the ingredients, I estimated the amounts from watching her make them.

Ingredients:

ingredients for achiote chicken w grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange and achiote del MayaMarinade:

one pack of chicken breast halves (about 5 or 6 halves) and/or thighs

1/2 brick achiote paste

3 Tb olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp sea salt

several grinds black pepper

1 tsp or more to taste Tapatio sauce

Juice of 3 large Seville Oranges

OR

1 1/2 Tb  juice from one lime

1 Tb juice from half a lemon

1/3  cup  juice from 2 small juice orange

1/3 cup juice from one small grapefruit or half a large grapfruit

red onionsPickled onions:

1 red onion

1 Tb salt (I like to use sea salt)

Juice from 3 limes

Make the marinade:

achiote with olive oil oregano and salt

In a non-reactive container, mix achiote paste with olive oil, using a fork to make a smooth paste. Add oregano, salt and pepper and mix well.

Add the Tapatio sauce and  citrus juices and stir well until no lumps remain.

achiote sauceStab the chicken a few times on both sides to let the marinade permeate it. Submerge in marinade so that all sides of the meat are covered. Marinade 2 -4 hours.

onions sliced, salted and w lime juice marinadeAfter you put the chicken in the marinade, make the pickled onions. . Slice a red onion thinly.  Put a layer of onions in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle salt  over it, and continue to layer with salt, using  a total of 1 Tb salt. Squeeze 3 limes over the onions.  mix with your fingers, and then cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate until chicken is cooked. The onions will soften when pickled. Stir every so often while the onions are pickling. Serve with the chicken.

Grill meat on barbecue over medium flame.

If you’re not up for barbecuing, you can place the chicken in a shallow baking pan under the broiler for 15 minutes until they brown.

serving

Serve with pickled onions and  fresh tortillas. Or make tacos or tostadas with them.

Holy Mole

I once spent the better part of a day making mole (MO-le), the Mexican chocolate – chili sauce, by toasting and grinding seeds, chiles and tortillas. It was fun and adventurous and it came out well, but it was a lot of work.

But when I want an easy meal after work, I use jarred or boxed prepared mole.

Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter to the mole.

then stir in 1/2 cup Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (or boxed or canned broth). Add more broth for jarred mole, as it is thicker.

Stir well over medium heat. Add cooked chicken pieces and heat in mole sauce. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

For many years I used the Dona Maria mole in the jar. You can wash out the jar afterwards and have a new drinking glass! My daughter is in college across the country and can’t find mole in the grocery stores. I discovered Rogelio Bueno mole available in boxes, which are better to ship than the breakable jars.

I served mole with warm corn tortillas, frijoles pintos and Corn Salad for dinner.

It’s easy to make mole enchiladas with this. Set aside chicken in mole sauce, and pour some mole sauce to cover a plate. Warm corn tortillas until pliable, then dip both sides in the mole sauce. Fill with the chicken. You can add frijoles pintos to the filling if desired. Place enchiladas on a baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Bake for 20 minutes or microwave for 6 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

You can make vegan or vegetarian enchiladas by using Roz’s Jewish vegan version Soup in the mole sauce, and filling them with frijoles pintos.

Tinga de Pollo: Spicy Stewed Chicken for tostadas or tacos



It’s Sept 16 – the 200th anniversary of Padre Hidalgo’s Grito de Dolores “¡Viva Mexico!”

To celebrate I’m making a big pot of  Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

and serving it with Chicken Tostadas

Add tinga de pollo to  tortilla soup to give it extra flavor.

In my tostada recipe I specified leftover chicken, but today there are no leftovers, so I’m making the chicken from scratch. This is a pretty easy recipe. Tinga de Pollo means spicy stewed chicken. I marinade it first for added tenderness and flavor, then stew it in the marinade.The marinade uses the green and red colors of the Mexican flag.

If you cook it and leave it in the sauce overnight, it is even better since the flavors have developed and soaked into the chicken.

Tacos are excellent served with cilantro, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and avocado in a fresh tortilla that is bent and heated on a comal until it holds it shape.

Makes enough chicken for 10 tacos or tostadas

3 chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat and chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 cup cilantro

¼ tsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chipotle powder

1 tsp salt

7-oz can salsa (I use Herdez salsa ranchera)

1 cup diced tomatoes with green chile (use fresh Roma tomatoes and a jalapeño OR a can of diced tomatoes with green chile)

Mix all ingredients and let marinate for several hours.

Add 1/4 cup water. Cook chicken in marinade in a skillet until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Discard cooked cilantro. Serve in tacos or tostadas.I also tried this recipe without cutting up the chicken, just marinating it for several hours with slits cut in the breast, then barbecuing it. It came out juicy and spicy flavorful! Even better, I briefly stewed shredded leftover barbecued chicken in the marinade and made tacos de tinga de pollo asada from them.