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Pollo en Bistec From 'Yucatán'

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[Photograph: Mark Randall]

Pollo en bistec is a homey variation on the Cuban beef dish called Bistec a la cazuela. In it, cubes of meat (in this case, pieces of chicken) are marinated in a heady blend of garlic and oregano before they're braised under layers of tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and chilies. This chicken version is an invention of David Sterling's Yucatecan friend; Sterling recreates it in his new cookbook, Yucatán. The dish is a humble one pot meal with a lingering, fiery undertone from the chilies. Serve it with a warm pile of tortillas.

Why I picked this recipe: This twist on tradition is indicative of the multicultural food traditions in the Yucatán.

What worked: Once you've got the recado (spice paste) ground, the rest of the dish is easy and familiar.

What didn't: I actually found it easier to grind the recado in a mortar and pestle instead of a blender. It was so thick that it clogged up the blades. If you've got a mini-prep food processor (I don't), then use it. Make sure that all of the potato slices are completely submerged under the liquid so that they will fully cook by the time the chicken is finished.

Suggested tweaks: You can make variations on this dish with beef (skip brining), fish (skip brining), or pork. You can also skip the brining step with chicken. Be sure not to overcook. I prefer braising with exclusively dark meat chicken, but you can use breast meat if you'd like (don't remove the bone or skin). The best substitute for Seville orange juice is a mix of 2 parts lime juice, 1 part orange juice, and 1 part white grapefruit juice. (I did okay with a mix of orange and lime juice.) You can use an Anaheim chili or spicy banana pepper in place of the chile x'catik.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Yucatán to give away this week.

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