Mario Unclogged: Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce
Our Acapulco-born babysitter, Leo, makes some of my favorite things to eat. At Christmas she makes turkey in a dark mole with toasted sesame seeds. In winter, she makes great enchiladas with soft, never-fried tortillas and a braised beef filling with queso fresco. She makes great albondigas (meatballs) with rice and beef or pork. And this week, she took some seasoned pork and made a kind of chili or sloppy joe mix with toasted dried corn that we ate as sandwiches on toasted burger buns.
But of all the things she makes, our favorite is a killer chicken and green sauce that she makes once a week.
It's great to watch a natural cook because she does not consult a recipe—she just knows. And that's why some of the best real cooks in my restaurant kitchens are from Mexico or Latin America—they watched their families make great food from scratch every day. They simply understand that sofrito goes in first when you make a braised dish or that coaxing flavor out of something lean sometimes means to cook it very well done and chopping into small pieces and dressing it with citrus and scallions.
That said, this is the easiest thing to watch and make. She takes 2 pounds of chicken drumsticks and thighs and removes the skin and sets them aside. Then she takes 3 pounds of husked tomatillos, 6 cloves garlic, and 2 serrano chiles and places them in boiling water for 2 minutes and then drains them. Still warm, she places them into the blender with the juice and zest of 3 limes and 1 bunch of cilantro and blends until just smooth. She seasons it with salt (a lot) and then puts the sauce in a pan with the raw chicken, bringing it to a boil and then simmering it for 25 minutes. After that, she finishes it with the juice of another lime and a handful of chopped scallions.
The boys eat it with warm tortillas and Frank's Hot Sauce. I even like it cold with a good splash of chipotle Tabasco for breakfast—if there's any left that is.
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About the author: Mario Batali has created a thriving restaurant empire and has established himself as a top restaurateur. Together with his partner, Joe Bastianich, he operates seven New York City hotspots. Mario splits his time between New York City's Greenwich Village and northern Michigan with his wife, Susan Cahn, of Coach Dairy Goat Farm, and their two sons. More Mario: mariobatali.com.