Chicken with Tomatillo and Assorted Chile Sauces

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By James Peterson

Published 1991

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In this dish, the chicken is sautéed until completely done (there’s no subsequent simmering in liquid, which makes this dish a classic sauté and not a fricassée. The sauces are prepared separately and then poured over. This plate, which presents an opportunity to experiment with different chiles, actually comprises five sauces: the base tomatillo sauce and the four individual chile sauces.


4 different kinds of dried chiles 4 each 4 each
heavy cream 1 cup 250 ml
chicken stock, preferably concentrated (4 to 6 times) 1 cup 250 ml
salt and pepper to taste to taste
chicken, 1, quartered 4 lb 2 kg
butter 1 oz 30 g
onion, chopped 1 medium 1 medium
tomatillos, sheaths removed, halved or canned, drained tomatillos 1 lb or 2 (15-oz) 450 g or (425 g) cans
sour cream as needed as needed


  1. Prepare the individual chile sauces by toasting each type of chile until fragrant in a dry iron skillet over high heat—don’t use any oil. Turn the chiles with tongs. Soak each type of chile separately for 30 minutes in warm water. Remove the stems and rinse out the seeds. Chop the chiles to a paste, keeping each type separate.
  2. Put each type of chile in a separate small saucepan with ¼ cup (60 milliliters) cream and ¼ cup (60 milliliters) stock and simmer gently, about 3 minutes. Strain each sauce, season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
  3. Cook the chicken on both sides in the butter in a large sauté pan for about 10 minutes per side, until firm to the touch. Take the chicken out of the pan and keep warm.
  4. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) fat from the pan and add the onion. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the tomatillos. Cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes. Strain the sauce through a strainer or pass through a food mill. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve the chicken with the tomatillo sauce poured over. Either pass the chile sauces or spoon them over each serving. Pass the sour cream.