Warning: now entering the unheralded category of Rustic Sauce that is slowly becoming more common outside of Mexico. Combining nuts and seeds with core salsa ingredients can create an instant delight that can be used in an infinite number of ways.
You'll recognize the base here as the Tomato-Chipotle Salsa that we tackled a couple weeks ago. Combining this with some freshly roasted peanuts creates a rich, hearty sauce that will taste both new and familiar at the same time.
You'll frequently see this dish using Anchos or Moritas as the chili pepper of choice, but in her exemplary compilation work The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy relays a recipe using chipotles-in-adobo as the star pepper, claiming her source to be a maid from the southern Pacific state of Oaxaca.
Using the chipotles-in-adobo has one additional benefit; it's easy to keep the pantry stocked with them for some quick go-to meals. So consider this post an adaptation of Ms. Kennedy's adaptation of the Oaxacan maid's Pollo En Salsa De Cacahuate.
Pollo En Salsa De Cacahuate -- Chicken in Peanut Sauce
Start with unroasted, unsalted peanuts if you can find them. Otherwise, roasted will still work.
Add 3/4 cups of peanuts to a dry skillet and roast until warm and fragrant.
Meanwhile, we'll put 2 tomatoes in the oven at 400F to roast for the next 15-20 minutes.
You'll be using considerably more chipotles than a standard salsa recipe because they'll get diluted down by the stock and peanuts.
Four chipotles with some of the seeds scraped out is a good starting point.
Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotles to a blender. Pulse blend.
Add the peanuts in batches and blend. You can add a few tablespoons of stock if you need to.
Heat a dollop of oil in a saucepan (I used lard), and add the sauce. Let it reduce for a few minutes and then add the 2 cups of stock, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of ground clove (around 1/8 teaspoon). Mix well and bring to a light simmer.
If you used unsalted peanuts you can add a generous pinch of salt here.
And now taste! Note the flavor after adding the cinnamon and ground clove as you'll want to reproduce this just before serving.
Let the sauce reduce for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly.
You've got plenty of choices on the chicken. Since the sauce needs some reduction, I think it's easiest to roast the chicken (and potatoes) in the oven at the same time. But you can also simmer chicken directly in the sauce.
As photographed, these chicken thighs and potatoes were in the oven for 25-30 minutes as the sauce simmered on the stove.
But wait, don't eat yet!
Just before serving, take another taste of the sauce. If the zing from the cinnamon is disappearing, then you can re-season by adding another dash of cinnamon, clove, and salt.
Be sure to coat the chicken with loads of sauce as you'll have plenty of it.
Cotija, cilantro, and sour cream are all good choices for garnishing, but definitely optional.
Anyone else out there wishing they knew someone from Oaxaca?
Chicken in Peanut Sauce -- Pollo Encacahuate
- 2 tomatoes
- 1/2 white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 chipotles in adobo
- 3/4 cup peanuts
- 2 cups stock
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon clove
- chicken (5 thighs or rotisserie)
- 2 potatoes
- oil (or lard)
- Roast 2 tomatoes in the oven at 400F
- Add a dollop of oil to a skillet and lightly cook the roughly chopped onion and peeled garlic cloves
- Add 3/4 cups of peanuts to a dry skillet and roast until warm and fragrant
- Prepare the chipotles by cutting off the stem and scraping out the seeds (leaving some seeds if you want more heat)
- Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotles to a blender and pulse blend.
- Add the peanuts in batches to the blender and blend until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of stock if the sauce gets too thick to blend.
- Add a dollop of oil (or lard) to a saucepan.
- Add the sauce and let reduce for a few minutes.
- Add the 2 cups of stock to the sauce, along with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of clove, and a pinch of salt.
- Mix well and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add chicken and potatoes to oven for roasting. Or simmer chicken pieces directly in the sauce if you want to.
- Re-season the sauce before serving by adding another pinch of cinnamon, clove, and salt.
- Coat the chicken pieces with plenty of sauce and serve on a bed of potatoes or your choice of sides.