My favorite thing to eat in Guatemala, hands down: jocon de pollo, a chicken stew simmered in a fresh tomatillo-cilantro sauce.
My least favorite thing to hear in Guatemala, hands down: chickens on the roof of my bedroom getting beheaded in preparation for jocon de pollo.
One of these things deserves a photo.
Winner below (see runner-up photo at the end of the post):
This is a pretty simple dish when you get down to it. A few things of note before the how-to …
1. This is cilantro-heavy, and when my friend said that would be nasty, we had words. He informed me that some people can’t stand cilantro. I informed him that made no sense, until I read this: “Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap, For Some” (NY Times).
Two lessons here: first, if you’re serving this, be sure your people like cilantro. Second, Mom, if you had made me wash out my mouth with cilantro when I cussed, you better f——- believe I would have had a four-letter word vocabulary in full effect, especially when eating tacos.
2. I don’t know if the versions I had in Guatemala included pumpkin seeds, but this recipe does. Fall cooking anyone? That said, I only had sesame seeds in the kitchen so that’s all I used.
3. Mitch Hedberg’s thoughts on sesame seeds.
“What’s a sesame seed grow into? I don’t know, we never give them a chance. What the f*** is a sesaME?! It’s a street .. It’s a way to open s***…”
Ingredients (based on this)
- Chicken legs — 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- Water — 4 cups
- Salt — 2 teaspoons
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) — 1/4 cup
- Sesame seeds — 1/4 cup
- Corn tortillas, chopped, soaked in water, drained — 2
- Tomatillos, hulled and chopped — 1 cup
- Cilantro, chopped — 1 bunch
- Scallions, chopped — 1 bunch
- Jalapeño pepper, chopped — 3
I didn’t have pumpkin seeds so I doubled the sesame seeds. That was a risky move, and potent – maybe go with 1/3 cup instead.
1. Bring the chicken, water, and salt to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. I went with an hour.
2. Strain the chicken, saving the broth, and shred some of the chicken with your fingers if you so desire. Otherwise leave it on the bone.
3. Heat a dry skillet on medium, add your sesame/pumpkin seeds, and then grind them to a powder.
4. Add the seeds, tortillas (for thickness), tomatillos, cilantro, scallions, and peppers to a food processor. Add a cup of the chicken broth and blend until smooth.
5. Pour the pureed mixture over the chicken back in the pot. Add a cup or so of broth to your tasting to get the desired consistency of your sauce.
6. Heat over medium low flame for 15-25 minutes.
As you saw in the first picture I served this with rice, refried beans, and avocado. I used Dave’s black bean cooking method – add garlic and water to the beans and simmer for about an hour until you get a rich, garlicky paste.
Oh yeah, runner-up – this is how we got to the third floor of the house. All of us.