“Traditional” and “simple” rarely belong in the same breath when it comes to Mexican recipes, but if you can find ancho chiles, this braised chicken recipe makes great weeknight fare without being light on flavor. It’s the antithesis to festive Mexican dishes that have several sub-recipes — you only need a few spices, pantry staples, and fresh tortillas.
When selecting ancho chiles, look for pliability and a shiny dark exterior. Holding it up against light will reveal a reddish-brown hue. Since poblano chiles are naturally mild and sweet, its dried version in ancho chiles lend a similar quality to sauces and moles.
recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of Mexico
Pollo en Ajo-Comino
Chicken Braised in Ancho Chiles, Garlic, and Cumin
makes 6 to 8 servings
4 ancho chiles, veins and seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 1/2-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
- A molcajete and tejolote (mortar and pestle)
- A blender
- A heavy pot
- In a small skillet, cover the ancho chiles with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then soak for another 5 minutes. Drain.
- Using a molcajete or mortar, grind the cumin, black peppercorns, clove, salt, and garlic. Add about 1/4 cup of water to form a thin paste.
- Blend the soaked ancho chiles with 3/4 cup of water until smooth.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt.
- In a heavy pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the chicken pieces until pale gold, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
- Immediately add the cumin and garlic mixture to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Add the pureed ancho chiles and cook for another 3 minutes while scraping the bottom of the pot constantly.
- Add 2 1/2 cups of water and return the browned chicken pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Braise while uncovered for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve warm with freshly made tortillas.