Our dining destination this month is the country of Guatemala. I always get pretty excited when we are visiting Latin American countries, as their cuisine is one of my favorites, a close second to Italian!
We’re going to make one of Guatemala’s famous dishes known as “pepian verde.” This refers to a sauce made of chiles, tomatillos, and pumpkin seed (the pepian). There are many different varieties of pepianes, green being the most popular, but you can also find recipes for a red pepian and a black pepian (more like a mole) as well.
In fact, previously I shared a recipe for a red pepian sauce with you. This time around I’d like to share the green pepian, it’s easier and less work than making the red one. It is also a milder tasting dish that will appeal to almost any palate.
I’m using boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the preparation. But this sauce would go well with any protein you can think of: filet of fish, sliced steak, even sautéed prawns. You can cook your protein ahead of time, prepare the sauce ahead of time, and when you are ready to serve just warm up the sauce and add the meat.
I’ve made some suggestions to accompany the meal, such as Mexican Rice and a Radish Salad. Make sure to check out the archives of past recipes for additional ideas. And please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have, at email@example.com.
Chicken in Green Tomatillo and Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Pollo Pepián Verde) (Tested)
“Pepian Verde” is a traditional sauce made with tomatillos and “pepitas,” which is the Spanish word for pumpkin seeds. It is very easy to make, and in spite of the chiles it is not that spicy. The poblano peppers are mild, and contribute a pleasing chile note. Check with your grocer if you don’t see them, they are sometimes mistakenly called “pasilla peppers” as well. Also, Trader Joe’s carries the hulled pumpkin seeds called for in this recipe.
The sauce can be made ahead of time (at least a day or two), which is a bonus. If you do that, store the sauce in the fridge until you are ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe. You will find that in the fridge the sauce will solidify, because the pectin from the tomatillos has thickened it. Once heated, the sauce will become liquid again. Cool!
You can of course, use any kind of chicken parts for this recipe. I chose to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for economy and ease of preparation. And if you really want to make this an easy dish to prepare, you could purchase a rotisserie chicken and cut the meat into large chunks instead of cooking chicken thighs. Just heat up the sauce and add the chicken pieces to warm.
3 fresh poblano peppers
12 medium-size tomatillos
2 serrano or jalapeno chiles (remove seeds for less heat)
2 or more cups of chicken stock
1 cup roughly chopped onion
3 cloves peeled garlic
1 large handful of cilantro, no need to stem
¾ cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Flour for dusting the chicken (optional)
Additional pumpkin seeds for garnish
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
Begin by making the sauce. To do so, first roast the poblano peppers over a gas flame on the top of your stove (as I do), or broil them in the oven until the skin blackens. (For those who would like a little more instruction on how to roast and peel peppers check out this short video on roasting peppers.) Make sure you keep your eyes on them for the entire process, though, moving your baking tray around as needed.
Once the peppers are roasted and the skin is blackened, place them into a covered bowl to finish steaming. When they are cool enough to handle, pull out the stems and seeds, and remove the skins. There is no need to pull off every bit of skin, as everything will be blended up smoothly. Place the peppers in a blender container.
In the meantime, while the poblano peppers are roasting, remove the papery skins from the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos and the serrano or jalapeno peppers into a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until they are soft, about 15 minutes.
Scoop the softened contents of the saucepan out of the water and put into the blender container with the poblanos. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, onion, garlic, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and salt, and blend on high until everything is smooth.
Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil to the pan. Dust the chicken thighs with flour (if using), add them to the oil, and brown on one side. Turn and finish cooking on the other side. You may have to do this in a couple of batches if you don’t have a large enough pan. When the chicken is cooked, make sure all the chicken pieces are back in the sauté pan and add the sauce, then let it come to a simmer. This is where you will take note of whether you need to add more stock or water if the sauce seems too thick. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
Recipe contribution from Linda McElroy, adapted from: http://www.lacocinadeleslie.com/2014/03/chicken-pipian-verde-weekdaysupper.html
Photo credit: Linda McElroy