Monday, May 23, 2011

Pollo en ajo-comino (Chicken in Garlic and Cumin)

From Diana Kennedy, The Essential Cuisines of Mexico

The sauce in this dish was so good it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Or maybe that was my allergies. Regardless, this sauce could stand alone. We served this with warm tortillas, roasted potatoes on the side and the cactus salad. The boy made tacos with his share, and discovered that maybe being forced to give up crunchy tacos because of his braces wasn't such a tragedy after all. He pronounced them good.

4 ancho chiles, veins and seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin
12 peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 whole clove
4 garlic cloves
3 1/2 cups water, approximately
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 chicken, cut into serving pieces

Cover the chiles with water and simmer for about 5 minutes, then leave to soak for 5 minutes. Drain. In a mortar, grind the cumin, peppercorns, salt and clove, then mash in the garlic gradually, adding 1/4 cup of the water to dilute the mixture. Set aside.

Transfer the drained ancho chiles to a blender jar with 3/4 cup of the water. Blend until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil and fry the chicken pieces, a few at a time, to a pale gold. Add the spice mixture and fry over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the blended chiles and fry for another 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan constantly. Add the remaining water, then adjust the seasoning and cook slowly, uncovered, until the chicken is tender -- about 40 minutes, turning the pieces over from time to time. The sauce should not be thick; add more water if necessary. Serve with warm tortillas.

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