Friday, December 12, 2008

Pollo for the December Soul

Winter is here. I wake up in the dark. I watch the sky turn pink and gold behind the bridges and smoke stacks of the Harlem River as I ride the Metro North train in the morning. At night, crows blacker than the sky gather in the trees by the White Plains platform. By the time I get home, I want a warm and heavy meal to comfort me through the long night.

Unfortunately, by the time I get home, I’m also a little too tired and a lot too hungry to make the kind of slow-cooked winter food I’m craving: coq au vin or maybe a lamb tagine. Pollo Verde to the rescue!


Pollo Verde — Green Chicken — is essentially an Arroz con Pollo with lots of green stuff. As in Arroz con Pollo, the chicken, vegetables, and rice all cook together in a big pan, making rich flavors and easy cooking. The Verde comes from tomatillos and lots of cilantro. The doodle above is on the recipe I copied from my mother, but lately I’ve adjusted that recipe, trading the onions for plenty of garlic, adding hot pepper to brighten the flavor and tomatoes just to mix it up. Luckily, Mama’s recipe book says there are as many recipes for Pollo Verde as there are cooks in Mexico, so that’s all allowed.



6-8 tomatillos
1-2 cups cilantro
1-2 hot peppers (I like thai peppers or scotch bonnets)
6-8 cloves garlic
Optional: 1 tomato, in thin wedges (or a handful of halved grape tomatoes)
3-6 Chicken pieces
1 1/2 cups rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

What To Do With ‘Em:

1. Heat a dry cast iron skillet on highest heat. When it’s hot, place tomatillos in the pan and burn them a little on several sides. You’re not trying to cook them all the way, just get some nice fiery flavor. (A tip of the tongs to Mamacita, who taught me this trick with her miraculous salsa recipe, which she should really post here.)


2. In a food processor (or with better knife skills than I have), mince the garlic and hot peppers. Add tomatillos, blend to liquid, and then add the cilantro and blitz.

3. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan with a lid. (If you have a dutch oven, you can use the same pan for the tomatillos.) When the oil is hot, add chicken pieces and brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan. (This recipe makes a LOT of rice. If you want to serve rice with a full piece of chicken for each plate, use 6 pieces of chicken. I usually make just 3, serve rice with chicken for dinner, and eat just the yummy rice as a side dish for another meal.)

4. Add dry rice to hot oil and fry for a minute or two, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

5. Return chicken to pan. Pour blended vegetables over chicken and rice. Arrange tomato pieces on top. Cover, and turn heat down low.


6. Cook on low for 30-40 minutes, until the rice is soft. Check occasionally and add water if necessary.



colleen said...

Yum. Thanks for showing all of us gringos yet another way to use tomatillos.

Sweet Tea said...

on the internet, nobody knows you're a gringo! (me too.)

let us know how it goes if you make this, especially if you change the recipe around.