Sandra’s Guatemalan Pollo en Jocon

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“Hola, Lia. I promise you more to come but here is a recipe of a chicken in tomatillo sauce typical of Coban in Guatemala. It is called Pollo en Jocon (pronounced, ho-kon) and is traditionally served over rice, with warm corn tortillas. It is a stew, so you serve it in bowls–the rice in the bottom, then spoon the sauce all over it. I hope you like it. I particularly hope your darling little girl enjoys it.”

~ from Sandra Gutierrez, The Culinary Latinista™, food writer and cooking instructor


20 large tomatillos, cleaned of husks, rinsed and dried
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into thick slices
2 green onions
1 green bell pepper, quartered
1 plum tomato
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 Serrano chiles
1 bunch cilantro (about 3 cups, packed)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (3-4 pound) chicken, cooked, deboned and shredded (about 7 cups) * [see below for instructions]
1/2 cup reserved chicken broth (from cooking chicken)

Set a dry skillet—preferably cast iron—over high heat. Working in batches, add the tomatillos, yellow onion, green onions, bell pepper and plum tomato, roasting them until they are charred all over. Set them inside a large bowl, as they are readied.

Roast the unpeeled garlic, making sure to char the skins well. Peel the roasted garlic and place the roasted pulp with the other vegetables. Roast the serrano chiles on all sides, remove the seeds and stem, and add the chiles to the vegetables.

Working in batches, puree the roasted vegetables and the cilantro in a blender until smooth, adding enough reserved chicken broth to help you along.

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomatillo sauce and stir well. You should hear a sizzling sound when the sauce comes into contact with the oil—watch out for sputters. Lower the heat and simmer sauce for 2 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and the remaining chicken broth, stir well, and simmer the stew for 15 minutes. Serve over steamed white rice.

Note: the stew can be completely prepared ahead of time, chilled, and re-heated before serving. It also freezes beautifully for up to 2 months.

Serves 6

* Lia’s note on cooking the chicken: Place the chicken in a large pot with two scallions and 2 smashed cloves of garlic, and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (it will take a while) and skim off any foam that has risen to the surface. Then lower heat to medium-low (it should still be bubbling, but not very vigorously) and cook for 50-60 minutes, the legs and wings should come off easily when grabbed with tongs. Remove the chicken (reserving the liquid), let cool enough so you can handle it, then remove the skin and bones and shred the meat.

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