Pollo en Oregano: Chicken Braised in Oregano Sauce

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This classic rustic dish inspired by the food of the beautiful 16th century city of Morelia was a huge favourite at our Colonial Tablelands class. It’s easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner and leftovers reheat beautifully.

(Serves 6)

12 small chicken thighs (or 6 large ones – or a large whole chicken cut into pieces)
freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 lb tomatillos, cut into halves if small, quarters if large
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3 chipotle morita chiles, seeded, soaked in hot water until soft and chopped
4–5 Tbsp piloncillo (unrefined Mexican sugar)
2 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
1 cup chicken stock


Heat a large ovenproof skillet with a lid over medium heat, and when hot, add oil. Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper and add to the pan, skin side down. Cook the chicken over medium heat, without letting it colour too much, until the skin has rendered up much of its fat. (If you don’t have a really large skillet, use two smaller ones.)

Remove chicken from the skillet and drain off all but a tablespoon or so of oil and chicken fat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring regularly to prevent browning, until they become translucent and soft. Add tomatillos, garlic and chipotles and cook until the tomatillos start to break down slightly. Add 4 tablespoons of the sugar, the oregano (rubbed to release its aromatic oils), a good pinch of salt and the stock. Cook until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust salt and sugar if necessary, Return the chicken to the pan. The sauce should come up about half way on the chicken – if necessary, add a little more stock or water.

Simmer, covered, turning chicken pieces occasionally, until chicken is tender – about twenty minutes. Turn the chicken pieces skin side up and place under the broiler briefly to lightly colour and crisp up the skin. (If using cut-up chickens, add breast meat pieces 10 minutes or so after the dark meat pieces so the white meat doesn’t over cook and dry out.)


Recipe © 2011, Don Dickson / South China Seas Trading Co. Limited