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Image: Adapted from The Washington Post

This is the only recipe that cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez learned from her mother, and she says it remains a favourite with her own family and friends. “The aroma of this chicken alone, will seduce your senses,” Gutierrez says, and we agree.

The dried chiles do not impart heat to this dish; rather, they add a smoky flavour similar to barbecue sauce.

Serve with steamed white rice or rice pilaf, sliced avocado, and with warm corn tortillas to mop up the sauce — just the way her mother serves it.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

  • 4 dried pasilla, guajillo or ancho chiles, or a combination of all three
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • One 3 1/2 to 4-pound chicken, preferably locally grown or free-range, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method 

Place the dried chiles in a medium bowl; pour enough boiling water over them to cover. (Keep them submerged in the water by placing a heatproof dish over them.) Soak for 10 minutes, then drain, discarding the water. Seed, devein and chop the chiles into bite-size pieces.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a high-sided skillet that’s large enough to eventually hold all the chicken over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the thyme, bay leaves, and the rehydrated chopped chiles. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the onion turns golden.

Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then transfer that skillet mixture to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet; once it shimmers, add the chicken pieces (working in batches, as needed) skin sides down. Sear until lightly browned on both sides.

Whisk together the ketchup, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and a good pinch of black pepper in a large liquid measuring cup.

Return the onion mixture and all the chicken to the skillet, plus any accumulated juices. Pour the ketchup mixture over the chicken; once it starts bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Uncover; increase the heat to medium and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. The sauce will have thickened a bit; if not, you can remove the chicken pieces and increase the heat under the remaining sauce so it boils down.

Taste, and add salt and/or black pepper as needed. Discard the bay leaves before.

Washington Post