Along with Mexico and El Salvador, a big portion of LA’s population (over 300,000!) hales from Guatemala. And even though you’re more likely to come across a pupuseris or taqueria rather than a Guatemalen restaurant, Guatemala’s food culture and palette of flavors still makes an impact. I played around with a version of Chicken Pepian, a Guatemalen chicken and pumpkin dish served with a sesame seed sauce. I love it over rice or served with plenty of warm tortillas for dipping. Enjoy!
1 pound fresh tomatillos, peeled, rinsed, and dried
1 large poblano pepper (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces), seeded and cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (also known as pepinas)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
5 black peppercorns, roughly ground
1 whole allspice, crushed
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup chicken broth
1 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
1 3 lb fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces (wings, breasts, thighs, and legs)
lime wedges, for garnish
Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatillos on a lined baking sheet (a silicon mat or aluminum foil is fine) along with the poblano and broil until charred, about 10 minutes, flipping the tomatillos and poblano once half-way through. Set the baking sheet aside on the counter.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, peppercorns, allspice, and cumin and toast until pumpkin seeds are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl immediately.
In same sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Place tomatillos, poblano, onions and garlic, cilantro, chicken broth, jalapeño, toasted seeds and spices and salt in a blender and blend on high until totally smooth, about 30 seconds.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium high heat and cook the chicken until browned on both sides and nearly cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Add pepian sauce to sauté pan, covering chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with sauce and garnished with extra cilantro and lime wedges.