Making pollo guisado was one of my better life-choices of late. I recently spent a couple of weeks in Los Angeles, the Land of the Taco and the Taco Truck and Putting Things in Tacos Like Korean BBQ. It’s sufficient to say that people in Los Angeles are really pretty remarkably serious about their tacos, and taco choices there extend far beyond the usual chicken-ground beef-and-carne-asada reporitore most Mexican restaurants favor.
Best of all were the tacos I enjoyed at Guisados, a small taco place on East Cesar Chavez that has gained an extremely enthusiastic local following. I tried Guisado’s eponymous pollo guisado taco – review coming soon – and decided I would have to try making this remarkably tasty, spicy braised chicken dish myself. I find it exceptionally difficult to resist a good braise.
Where did pollo guisado come from, anyway? No one is entirely sure. Pollo guisado appears to be a dish ubiquitous across Latin America, at least from my Internet research. Mexicans make it, Dominicans make it, Puerto Ricans make it – and indeed, it’s a rather ubiquitous idea, slow-braising chicken with peppers, a concept that’s intrinsically very close to the popular chicken cacciatore of Italy. (Cacciatore is another favorite recipe of mine, although I like this a lot more).
I wanted to make a spicier Mexican version of pollo guisado, so I mushed four or five online recipes together and proceeded from there.
I cooked the chicken for three hours, until the meat was falling apart and all those rich, spicy-as-hell chili flavors had melded nicely. I also threw some baby tri-colour potatoes in there for good measure. The finished pollo guisado was extremely spicy and very, very good. It would be excellent served over grits or rice. I intend to make this for a party sometime, and serve it with corn tortillas and various taco toppings.
Here’s my recipe, or at least an approximation of what I did. Remember that I apparently have a mouth of pure, cancer-inducing asbestos, so the less spicily inclined will want to cut down on the quantity of peppers.
BASTARDIZED-BUT-TASTY POLLO GUISADO ALA FAINE
This takes about 3 hours – plan ahead.
– One whole chicken, cut into pieces
– Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (optional if you like heat)
– Adobo sauce or chili paste. I used this very nice Peruvian Aji Panca chili paste by Costa Peruana, found at Whole Foods. It’s got a mild and slightly fruity flavor, and helps to counteract the heat of the other ingredients. Adobo sauce will work too.
– Ancho chili powder, a tablespoon or so to taste. Can be substituted with regular or chipotle chili powder.
– Chicken stock
– Red, green, and Poblano peppers, sliced. 1 of each, 2 green peppers. You’ll need one extra green pepper for sofrito. You don’t need the Poblanos if you can’t find them.
– Tomato sauce
– Dry oregano
– Sugar – helps temper hot chili.
– Baby potatoes (optional)
1. First, make sofrito – the Latin equivalant of the Creole’s “holy trinity.” Finely chop onions, celery, and green pepper. I threw in about three chipotle chilis packed in adobo sauce. Skip if you’re looking for something milder. Add cilantro if you are cooking for people who like it.
2. Saute the sofrito, adding a small amount of chili paste or adobo sauce to the mix. You don’t want it to be too moist. Once the sofrito has softened, add in the chopped peppers and soften them up as well.
3. Rub chili paste or Adobo, along with some salt and pepper, into the chopped chicken.
4. Brown the chicken in a big braising pan, large enough to fully contain all of the chicken and the vegetables.
5. Once the chicken has browned, add the vegetables.
6. Add the tomato sauce and the chicken stock. You want the liquid to be covering the chicken and vegetables.
7. Add the ancho chilli powder, the remaining chili paste or Adobo to taste, a pinch of dried oregano, a tablespoon of sugar to taste, and salt and pepper. Mix everything up throughly.
8. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once this has occurred, cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Braise for 3 hours, checking on the chicken often. You want the chicken to be falling off the bone.
9. If you are using baby potatoes, add them about 2 hours into the process, sooner depending on their size.
10. When the chicken is tender, carefully remove it from the sauce. Reduce the sauce by boiling over high heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
11. Serve the pollo guisado with corn tortillas to make tacos. You can also serve this over rice, polenta, or grits. Excellent with sliced avocado or guacamole to temper the heat.