Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce: Pipian Rojo del Norte

Total Time:
55 min
15 min
40 min

4 to 6 servings

  • 6 ancho chiles
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 (1/2-inch) stick Mexican cinnamon (canela)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large fresh or dried avocado leaf, toasted and finely ground (optional)
  • 2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
  • Vegetable oil, as needed
  • Mixed cilantro and mint leaves, for garnish
  • Serving Suggestion: Warm corn tortillas
  • Stem and seed the chiles, reserving 1 tablespoon of the seeds, or more to taste.

  • Toast the chiles in a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Transfer the chiles to a bowl, cover with hot tap water, and soak for 20 minutes. Drain.

  • Meanwhile, toast the chile seeds in the skillet. In a clean coffee or spice grinder, finely grind the chile seeds, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon.

  • In a blender, combine the chiles, ground spices, 1/2 cup chicken broth, and garlic and blend.

  • Heat the lard in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the blended sauce and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom, until somewhat reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 3 cups chicken broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. (The sauce may be prepared up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.)

  • Preheat a grill or grill pan. Lightly brush the chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken, turning to make cross-hatched marks, until just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

  • Slice the chicken and transfer to a platter.

  • Reheat the sauce and stir in the avocado leaf. Ladle the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and garnish with herb leaves. Serve with corn tortillas.

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