Mexican Pipian sauces are renowned and vary in color and flavor depending on the chilies, seeds, herbs, and spices used. Often called moles which, legend has it, were supposedly first concocted by nuns in at the Santa Rosa Convent in Puebla, using whatever was on hand, including a turkey, chilies, spices, and chocolate, with hope of impressing a visiting Archbishop in the mid 1500’s. It is far more likely however that simpler pipian sauces were being ground in stone molcajets centuries before the Spanish ever set foot in the new world. The Pipian Verde recipe that follows is a delicate balance of flavors using pumpkin seeds (pepitas), green chilies, cilantro (coriander), leafy greens, and herbs, blended into a smooth, nutty, and moderately spicy green sauce that pairs well with grilled meats, poultry, and seafood, or for saucing enchiladas, or chalupas.
Pollo en Pipian Verde: serves 4
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup chicken stock
Slice each chicken breast into three thin fillets by firmly placing your hand over the breast and, using a very sharp knife and starting at the bottom of the breast, slice the breast lengthwise into fillets. Place on a tray and season each fillet with salt and pepper on both sides.
Over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together in a large skillet. Add the sliced garlic and saute just until the garlic begins to color. Remove the garlic promptly and drain on a paper towel, and set aside to be used later for a garnish when serving. Swirl the pan and, working in batches, add several fillets to the skillet without crowding. Sauté for about 1 ½ minutes, or until the underside of the fillets are lightly browned. Flip the fillets and saute for another 1 ½ minutes. Flip the fillets once again and saute for an additional half minute. Transfer the fillets to a platter, and continue to sauté the remaining fillets.
Deglaze the pan with the lime juice and stock until it is reduced to a silky consistency. Evenly spoon the deglazed sauce over the fillets and set aside to use later. To re-warm, add a little stock to a large skillet and add the fillets and juices and bring to a very low simmer for several minutes.
Pipian Verde Sauce:
- 1 ¼ cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 4 whole garlic cloves, skin on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 2 fresh poblano chilies, fire roasted, skinned, seeded, and diced (or 3 jalapenos, fire roasted, partially seeded, and diced)
- 1 cup firmly packed chopped romaine lettuce
- ¼ teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives 1/4 cup cream (optional)
Place the pumpkin seeds and whole garlic cloves in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Toast the seeds and garlic together, frequently tossing and turning the seeds and garlic, until the seeds begin to pop and the garlic in scorched in spots on all sides. Remove promptly and transfer both to a tray to cool.
Once cool, remove the skin from the garlic and place in a blender along with 1 cup of the toasted pumpkin seeds, reserving ¼ cup of toaster pumpkin seeds for garnish when serving.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet over medium heat and when hot add the onions and saute until the onions are soft and translucent. Transfer the onions to the blender. Add the Poblano ( or jalapeno) chilies, chopped romaine, cumin seeds, salt, smoked paprika, and 2 cups of chicken stock to the blender. Blend for about 2 minutes until smooth.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat until the oil is nearly smoking. Best to have a lid handy to contain the splattering that follows. Pour the contents of the blender jar into the sauce pan all at once, and once the splattering has subsided, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, stirring frequently until the sauce is reduced and thick; about 10 minutes.
Stir in an additional 2 ½ cups of hot stock and when simmering partially cover and reduce the heat slightly until the sauce is barely simmering. Cook for about 20 minute, stirring every couple of minutes so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.Remove the sauce from the stove and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Then pour the sauce back into the blender. Add the cilantro (coriander) leaves, and the chives. Carefully pulse several times and then puree on low, before slowly increasing the speed to high. Puree for 3 minutes, or until the sauce is very smooth.
At this point the sauce can be cooled and refrigerated if you are not intending to use it immediately.
If you intend to use the optional cream for a richer sauce the cream should be added to the sauce when reheating.
Or, if using the sauce at once return the sauce to the saucepan. Stir in the cream and return the sauce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning, adding additional salt if needed.Keep the sauce over low heat while you re-warm the chicken fillets as described above.
Serving: Transfer the reheated fillets to a serving platter or individual serving plates (3 fillets per serving). Generously nap the fillets with the pipian sauce, and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and sauteed garlic slices.