Cooking With Cilantro: Pollo Encilantrado

(Shredded Chicken in Cilantro Sauce)

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Serves 8

Serve this dish with small bowls of chopped cilantro, chopped white onion, chopped serranos, and lime wedges. It’s also good with rice instead of corn tortillas or tostadas (deep-fried tortillas). Any extra sauce keeps for several days in the refrigerator. Tomatillos look like small, green-husked round tomatoes. They have a sweet-tart flavor and are widely used in Mexican cooking.

• 2 pounds (about 20 medium) tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
• 1/2 white onion, quartered
• 13 cloves garlic, peeled
• 10 to 12 serrano chiles, stemmed
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 white onion, coarsely chopped
• 1 1/2 cups cilantro sprigs, packed
• Pinch of sugar (optional)
• 5 teaspoons canola oil
• 4 green onions, chopped
• 4 cups cooked chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces
• 20 corn tortillas or tostadas

1. Place the tomatillos in a pot with enough boiling water to barely cover along with the quartered onion, 4 garlic cloves, serranos, and salt and pepper; reduce the heat and simmer for 7 minutes, or until the tomatillos lighten in color and become soft. Don’t cook them so long that they burst open. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

2. Puree the cooked ingredients in a blender with the chopped onion, 6 garlic cloves, and 3 to 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Add the cilantro and coarsely blend. Season to taste with sugar, more salt, or additional chopped serranos. Set aside and keep warm.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large pan; add the green onions and remaining garlic, minced, and sauté briefly. Add the chicken and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes.

4. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining oil and add the cilantro/tomatillo sauce and cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat.

5. Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour about 3 cups of the warm tomatillo sauce over it. Serve over tortillas or tostadas. Pass the remaining sauce.

Lucinda Hutson is the author of The Herb Garden Cookbook, 2nd edition (Gulf, 1998) and Tequila: Cooking with the Spirit of Mexico (Ten Speed Press, 1996). She lives and gardens in Austin, Texas.

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