Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mexican Ancho Guajillo Chicken

For some reason, all our July posts so far have a decidedly "Latin" feel to them. Welcome to eatingclub Julio Latino ("Latin July")! I had to throw in that Taiwanese Stewed Minced Pork post for a little variety.

Here's yet another "Latin" dish; it's a Mexican dish inspired by Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook.

I've been flipping through this book, wanting to make something. However, some people in the house have an aversion to cumin. (Didn't we mention we cook for picky people?) As you can imagine, trying to find a cumin-less dish in a Mexican cookbook can be a little challenging.

But, here's one! In the book, the dish is called Pollo a las Hierbas de la Sierra (Chicken with Mountain Herbs). However, the recipe called for avocado leaves.
Avocado leaves!

It's certainly the first time I've heard of avocado leaves being used for cooking something. Needless to say, we did not have avocado leaves in the house. So, I did my best and came up with what I'm calling "Ancho Guajillo Chicken" instead.

I've made a few changes to the recipe, but I'm copying the original at the end of the post.

Ancho Guajillo Marinade

Here is how that concoction in the blender came to be.

I don't really know much about the different qualities of dried chiles, except to know that anchos smell like raisins. =)

I toasted the anchos and guajillos in a dry pan first, then removed the seeds and membrane. Back into the pot they went, along with chopped tomatoes. They cooked until softened.

They went into the blender with some garlic, onion, and some plain old white vinegar.

The resulting purée went onto some chicken that have been seasoned with salt and pepper. We only had drumsticks, so that's what I used. They sat marinating for about 20 minutes or so.

Hierbas de la Sierra (Mountain Herbs)
Um, yeah. Be it known that it seemed like I did not actually have any of these hierbas on hand; fresh ones, that is.

Here's what I did.

I made the herb infusion using dried Mexican oregano (at least I got the Mexican part correct!) and some dried rosemary (all the way from the Provence! Thanks again, Dhanggit!). No avocado leaves, kids, sorry. The dried herbs steeped in some boiling water.

I then added the chicken and marinade. To add the "bulk" that was supposed to be provided by the avocado leaves, I used cilantro instead. We do love our cilantro, after all, and cilantro is still "Mexican", right? Right?

This simply simmered away until the chicken was cooked.

I wasn't sure how the chicken would taste, given my limited experience with these red chiles. I was a little surprised that the chicken tasted quite familiar. The chicken was juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender.

The overall taste of the sauce is quite complex, enveloping the chicken in a kind of rich, smoky, earthy sweetness. It was quite delicious, albeit a little difficult to parse right now. We have to go on a chile education -- and perhaps Julio Latino is the month to do that.

Like my ghetto backdrop?

[eatingclub] vancouver Mexican
Tacos... then
Tacos... now
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Semi-Lime-cooked, Semi-Yucatecan Shrimp with Garlic Chips
Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese with Pipían Verde
Quickie Turkey Tortilla Soup
Tacos of Carnitas with Pineapple, with Roasted Salsa and Sweet Potato
Shrimp a la Mexicana (Camarones a la Plancha)
Enchiladas Verdes
Cilantro Horchata
Strawberry Cilantro Salsa, on Grilled Flank Steak
Mexican Ancho Guajillo Chicken
Chipotle Ground Turkey on Flour Tortilla
Tacos... again (July 2009)
Tacos al Pastor with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Tacos with Beer-braised Carnitas Filling
Shredded Beef and Tripe Tacos
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Blueberry Tres Leches Cake
Crab Tostada
Homemade Mexican Chorizo Sausage
Torta (Mexican Sandwich)

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Pollo a las Hierbas de la Sierra
(Chicken with Mountain Herbs)
Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook
Serves 4

1 large chicken, about 4 lb (2 kg), quartered
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 chiles anchos
2 chiles guajillos
1 cup chopped tomato
4 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
12 avocado leaves with stems
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 cup fresh oregano

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.

Toast the chiles and remove their seeds and membranes. In a small saucepan, cook the chiles with the tomato over medium heat until softened. Transfer to a blender, add the garlic, onion and vinegar and purée. Coat the chicken pieces with this purée and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Bring the water to a boil. In a deep cazuela or pot, prepare an infusion by pouring the water over half of the herbs. Add the chicken and cover with the other half of the herbs. Cook over low heat, covered, for 40 minutes. When the chicken is tender, serve it on the leaves with which it cooked.


  1. That puree looks just fabulous! I love the complex, almost smoky flavor of the ancho chile. I always wonder why I don't seek them out more often! This dish is giving me a craving for some good old fashioned Mexican cuisine, that's for sure.

    Were there leftovers?

  2. avocado leaves?! seriously where does one even get those

  3. Love the backdrop, are you a professional food stylist? ;)

    The curry looks terrific.

  4. Mmmmm looks delicious. I guess you guys are having an unusually cool summer too?

  5. Lo:
    Yes, the flavor of the chiles is hard to describe. I guess "good" would suffice. There were a few drumsticks left over; but just a couple. =)

    Hahaha, I know! Actually, we don't know of a Latin American grocery store here... at least, we don't know if any yet. Perhaps they will have it? But it does sound like a very rare ingredient!

    Hahaha... =D

    Marc @ NoRecipes:
    The summer here has been very weird so far. There'll be a few days (almost a week) of hot weather, then there'll be a week of almost "cold", wet weather. Then, back to the hot. It's very confusing.


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