Guatemala holds a special place for me because, if you’ve been following me for a while you know this is where my husband was born. I have always wanted to go there, but when we plan to take a trip, something always gets in the way. I have seen so many pictures and home movies that my hubby has shown me, that I feel like I’ve have been there. It is such a beautiful country. I have learned so much more about Guatemala’s cuisine from my hubby and his mom that I wanted this to be my first dish. So the dish for this region I chose
Pepian is one of the oldest dishes in Guatemala and by many considered to be one of the national dishes. It is a fusion of the country’s Spanish and Mayan heritage. It is a thick, rich spicy stew that consists of onions, tomatoes, chilies pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds that are roasted and then blended to create that wonderful tasting sauce. I highly recommend to not skip the pumpkin and sesame seeds because they give the sauce a very distinctive flavor. This stew typically contains chicken, but beef and pork can be used instead. Some variations have potatoes and carrots in it as well.
I did do my own variation of the chicken. In the traditional dish, the chicken is cooked in a pot of water then added to the stew. I wanted to incorporate more flavor to the chicken so I mixed it with some herbs and seared it in a pan, just to give it that extra added flavor. I used the slow cooker so the flavors had some extra time to develop. This dish does take a bit of time to prepare, but it is so worth all of the love that is put into it. The chicken came out so tender and flavorful with all of the added spices. The sauce…wow that sauce….it’s so rich and tasty with just an added kick with the jalapeno and chili powders that I added. I didn’t add as many chilies as the traditional recipes call for, but it’s still delicious just the same. The potatoes and carrots help make it a very hearty stew. It’s usually served with rice and tortillas on the side. This dish certainly did not disappoint.
Here’s how I made my version of Pepian (slow cooker)
*1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces
*2 TBS flour
*3/4 tsp. cumin
*1 tsp. coriander
*1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
*1/2 tsp. paprika
*1 tsp. onion powder
*1 tsp. garlic powder
*1 tsp. salt or more to taste
*1/2 tsp white pepper; you can use cracked black pepper instead
*2 TBS canola oil
*1 Jalapeno; if you prefer it spicy leave the seeds in, if not then scrape the seeds out. I scraped half of the seeds out and left some in.
*4 tomatoes; cut in half
*1 onion, cut in fourths
*4 garlic cloves
*2TBS sesame seeds
*2 TBS pumpkin seeds; shelled
*2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces; I used russet because the starch seemed to help thicken the sauce better
*1 carrot cut into pieces
*2 cups chicken broth, divided
*1 TBS or more of cornstarch (if need)
In a large bowl, add the chicken
Next add the flour, cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Toss the chicken pieces with the flour mixture until the chicken is evenly coated.
Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron because it gives a great sear, to medium high heat and add in the oil.
When the pan is hot, add in the chicken, but do not over crowd the pan. You will have to do this in batches.
Cook for about 2 minutes and turn the pieces over and cook for another minute. Do not leave the chicken in too long or the spices will burn. If the skillet becomes too dry, add in more oil.
Place the seared chicken pieces in to the slow cooker.
Wipe the skillet out and place the tomatoes in skin side down. Add in the onion, jalapeno and garlic cloves. Cook until it all begins to char, abut 5 minutes and then turn them over and cook until the other side begins to char.
Take out the garlic cloves before they become too brown or they will have a bitter taste.
While the vegetables are in the pan, in another small pan or sauce pan, toast the sesame and the pumpkin seeds.
I found pumpkin seeds that were already roasted, to I just had to toast the sesame seeds. Be careful not to burn the seeds, they toast quickly.
Add the charred tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and garlic cloves to a food processor or a blender, then add in the sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Pulse a few times to start breaking everything down.
Pour in 1 cup of the chicken broth and blend until everything is pureed.
To the slow cooker add in the potatoes and the carrot.
Pour in the pureed mixture and the remaining cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine all of the ingredients.
Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until vegetables are tender. If sauce needs to thicken, add equal amounts of the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Pour into the slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for about 5 minutes or more until sauce is thickened.
Serve with rice and tortillas.