Glam Gal in the Kitchen

Emily is constantly trying to find her signature dish… Might she just have found it with Pepian Chicken??? I also must admit while typing this blog I did a little research (where was this before when I was trying to find a recipe for this damn sauce?) and it turns out the Peruvian sauce is called Aji sauce and has some of the same ingredients but ADDS MAYO!! Great to know I was basically dipping my chicken in Mayo before. UGH!

Pepian Sauce is actually Guatamalan, tastes just like Aji sauce to me and clearly has none of the fat without the MAYO! Hooray!

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I can barely watch the Food Network as I get too hungry and then end up getting angry that I don’t have any good food or ingredients in the house. Then I turn to something less saliva producing, such as Real Housewives of New Jersey, that does the opposite to my appetite. On one of my rare occasions watching the Food Network I was dismayed and JEALOUS to see Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee.

Um, she TOTALLY stole my show. I am the queen of semi-homemade cooking!! I am always substituting jars of this or that already made into my “homemade” creations! I am always adding spices or pre-roasted chicken to things! (That is for another blog about how to fake cook and impress people.) This blog is about going the extra mile.

The fact is that I am a condiment whore. I have a fridge full of condiments to put on everything from veggies to steak to ice cream and not much else lives in my fridge. I always fall in love with certain sauces from restaurants and try to recreate them using pre-made things, because in my opinion there is nothing more time consuming or difficult to get right than making a sauce of some kind. There are so many different bottles of fabulous sauces in the gourmet section of the too pricey stores near me or even just in the condiment section of the grocer’s that you don’t really ever have to try your hand at your own marinades or your own dipping sauces, remoulades, aioli, or salsas or… You get my point I’m sure.

PictureI recently fell in love with a certain lime green sauce from a Peruvian chicken joint called Pio Pio in NYC. I could basically eat the sauce with a spoon and always ordered extra. I couldn’t figure out what was in it! What made it lime green? What made it taste faintly spicy and faintly sweet and why did I dream about it and now think chicken was born to be dipped in it?

Everyone I asked about the sauce had no idea what was in it but all agreed it was heaven in green. The Peruvian chicken people acted like they couldn’t speak English when I asked for an ingredient list!  I resigned myself to the fact that I would never know UNTIL last night. Yes dear GG’s, although I can’t WATCH the food network I can browse their recipes online when I am feeling particularly creative and well-rested. (The times I head to the grocery store armed with a recipe from the Food Network or Allrecipes.com or Chef Stef WAY outnumbers the times I actually walk out of there with the ingredients and actually make a meal from said recipe but who is counting?) Anyway, I was browsing through Low Carb recipes and a certain picture and recipe caught my eye…

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Chicken with Pepian Sauce (Ellie Kreiger)

Ingredients :
1 pound fresh tomatillos
1 large poblano pepper (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces), seeded and cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
5 peppercorns
2 whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium (2-inch) jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 (6-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
Lime wedges

Directions:
Preheat the broiler. Remove papery outer layer from tomatillos then rinse them in warm water to remove some of their natural stickiness. Pat dry, then cut into quarters. Toss tomatillos and poblano with 2 teaspoons of the oil, place on a baking sheet and broil until charred, about 10 minutes.

Heat a large saute 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 plate.

In same saute pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Place tomatillos, poblano, onions and garlic, cilantro, chicken broth, jalapeno, toasted seeds and spices and salt in a blender and blend on high until totally smooth, about 30 seconds.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in skillet and cook the chicken until browned on both sides and nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Add pepian sauce to skillet, covering chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with sauce and garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

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It seemed to be a lime green sauce! It was being poured over chicken!! And the ingredients looked MIGHTY appetizing. It was called Pepian Sauce. Could it be?? Could it be MY Peruvian green sauce?? Come to Mama!!

The recipe called for tomatillos and poblano peppers and pumpkin seeds and a lot of roasting and toasting and blending. GULP. That sounded time consuming and where would I get tomatillos? The answer: Eli’s, the most expensive grocer near me but the one with the BEST of everything. I went to Eli’s and of course they had all the ingredients. They also had jars of tomatillo salsa. Hmmmmm, tomatillo salsa seemed to have 4 of the main ingredients for this sauce, garlic, onions, cilantro and mainly tomatillos… Should I pull a Sandra Lee and just doctor up the jars into the sauce?? NO! Stop being lazy Emily stop it! I decided to just DO it. It could be my most exciting food discovery yet. I was already planning on bottling it to always have it on hand so I would never have to be without it.

When I got home, I parked my kid in front of Finding Nemo (thank god she is obsessed with Nemo suddenly) and I set about charring peppers, chopping, sauteing and roasting. I won’t lie. It took a good 30- 40 minutes to accomplish this task. 30- 40 minutes is HUGE for someone that generally comes home starving and tired and generally wants a meal to materialize out of nowhere.  I followed the recipe to the letter even adding onion quell horrer! ( I HATE onions but was afraid that it may be an integral part of the sauce! I did add LESS than they said to. OK, so maybe I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter…)

The only thing I Sandra Lee’d was that I used ground cumin and ground Allspice instead of whole because I already had it and was being thrifty.

I was so hopeful the sauce would taste like my Peruvian dream sauce!

I put all things roasted and toasted into the blender and watched as it turned a lovely limey green. Then I tasted it and WAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It was my beloved green sauce! Even better if I say so myself! I was so excited/am so excited! Giving a little more time and effort in the kitchen totally paid off this time.

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Hubby ate way more than his share and co-worker HM (I had to bring her a taste) licked the lid of the container it was in she thought it was so tasty! I am happy I made extra and am planning on eating it again tonight!

So there you go GG’s I, who always take the extra time for a beauty ritual, finally transferred that to the kitchen and was pleased with the results. Maybe I will try that cheesecake from scratch rather than just doctoring up a store-bought next time…

Hmmmm…

Keep it Glam Gals,
Emily

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