CHICKEN WITH TAMARIND, APRICOTS AND CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Pollo con Salsa de Tamarindo, Chabacano y Chipotle
4 chicken quarters, or 8 chicken pieces of your choice with skin and bones
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 cups water
1/2 lb, about 3/4 cup, dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp apricot preserve
3/4 cup tamarind concentrate, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
2 tbsp sauce from chipotles in adobo, or more to taste
Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn them over occasionally, so they will brown evenly on all sides. Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer.
Incorporate apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce, salt, stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 minutes until the sauce has thickened to a thick syrup consistency and can coat the back of a wooden spoon. You may need to reduce the heat.
Taste for salt and heat and adjust to your liking.
HOMEMADE TAMARIND CONCENTRATE
Concentrado de Tamarindo
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 lb dried tamarind pods with their shell
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Remove the outer pod from the tamarinds, discard, and place the pulp in a bowl. Cover them with 2 cups boiling water and let them sit anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.
With your hands, clean then tamarinds of the large seeds and strains/threads. Strain in a colander, pressing with your hands or a spoon to get as much pulp as possible.
Place the resulting tamarind juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the sugar, and let it simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. The juice should have thickened considerably, to a thick syrup consistency.
Squeeze in the fresh lime juice, let it simmer for a couple more minutes and let it cool. Refrigerate and store in a tight lid container. The concentrate will keep for months.
It seems that many people find chicken boring.
I happen to find it fascinating.
Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up.
When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.
Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.
Tamarind, also called Indian date, is the pod of a tropical tree that is said to have originated in Asia and North Africa. It was brought to Mexico sometime in the 1500’s in the galleons that came from Asia, manged by the Spaniards, that landed in the gorgeous beaches of Acapulco. Now somewhat touristy…
Tamarind tastes a bit sour, acidic and sweet at the same time. Its flavor has a lot of depth and an earthy feel to it too. Through the years it grew strong roots in Mexican land, where the large trees are loved for their heavy shade, and the pods for their multiple uses in Mexico’s kitchens. From candies and snacks, to drinks and desserts, as well as moles, sauces of different kinds.
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