Continuing with Mexico’s national colours, this is a traditional white-coloured dish; the recipe is probably originally from Mexico City. In a previous post, I talked about the origin of pipianes in general and white pipian in particular, as the starting point for my recipe for blushed pipian (click here for full story and recipe.) In a nut shell, Mexican pipián is defined as any dish composed by cooked meat smothered in a very rich sauce, thickened with ground seeds. I learned about blushed and white pipianes just this year during a trip to Mexico, thanks to Mexican chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, who advocates for authentic and less-known Mexican cuisine, both in his restaurants and on line. In one of his videos, while demonstrating the preparation of white pipian, he mentions that it was a favourite of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, two iconic 20th-century Mexican painters. An easy Google search brought me to the book “Frida’s Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo” (by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle; Clarkson N. Potter Inc, 1994):
Of course, I had to order that book at once! Co-author Guadalupe Rivera is Diego’s daughter and Frida’s stepdaughter, and she takes the reader through a culinary journey with some of the special meals and holidays she shared with Frida as a young grown-up in “La casa azul” (“The Blue House”, Frida’s last residence, now a museum in Mexico City.) On page 86, there was a recipe for “Chicken in Pipián Sauce”, and on page 89, a photo, to clarify the colour of the dish:
It was the white pipian, indeed! Guadalupe’s (Frida’s) recipe uses chickens cut-up into pieces, and a ratio of equal parts of sesame seed and blanched almonds for the sauce. The cooked chicken and other ingredients are then simmered in the sauce for a few minutes. Chef Muñoz Zurita chooses to gently simmer the sauce separately, and fix it with the meat on the serving plate; this is probably partly because, at his restaurant, he offers options of fish, turkey, chicken and pork (white meat), so one pot of sauce may serve all, but he emphasizes that his technique ameliorates separation of oil and water, preserving the sauce nice and smooth (I did notice the grainy texture in the photo above, sorry Lupe/Frida); also, I used a ratio of ½ cup roasted sesame seed to 2/3 cup blanched almonds instead of equal parts, as a more judicious balance since, at least to my taste, sesame seed has a stronger flavour.
This is a very elegant-looking dish (photo at the top of the post), and yet, incredibly easy to prepare; the only ingredient that might be hard to find outside Mexico is pickled carricillo peppers (chiles carricillos.) I brought a jar from Mexico, because I have never seen them in Canada:
The name translates as “reed-like little peppers”, from the Spanish word carrizo (reed) for their elongated shape; they are also known as chiles largos (long peppers) or more generically, as chiles gűeros (blond peppers, although there are many other light-coloured peppers in Mexico referred by that name). If these are not available, I think the closest would be Friggitello, an Italian sweet, roundish pepper with a slight punch, often sold pickled as well, and commonly known as golden pepperoncino in the US and Canada.
I served my sauce with slices of pork roast and made broth with some trimmed fat and meat from the roast, just like for my blushed pipián (click here for detailed instructions), but chicken or turkey cooked in water may be used, straining and saving the broth for the recipe. This pipián also works great with grilled fish (use canned broth in this case).
White Pipian – Pipián Blanco
Ingredients (4 portions)
1 ½ lb (3/4 kg) cooked pork roast (or turkey breast, chicken pieces, or grilled fish filets)
For the sauce:
½ cup toasted sesame seed
2/3 cup blanched almonds; coarsely chopped
2 cups broth, approximately
½ tsp salt, or to taste
2 tbsp oil
4 pickled light-yellow peppers, whole (carricillo, or golden pepperoncini)
Stuffed green olives
Capers in brine
Process sesame seed, almonds, broth (caution: make sure it is not hot), and salt in the blender until very smooth. In a saucepan, warm up oil over medium heat; pour sauce (photo below, left). Continue cooking, stirring constantly, and just when it starts bubbling, reduce heat to very low heat, stirring gently, to avoid separation of the oil to achieve a terse textured sauce (photo below, right):
While the sauce is simmering, if needed, warm up meat in the microwave oven (or in a pan, covered, over low heat, or if using fish, grill at this point, right before serving.) Place slices of roast on a serving plate (or slices of turkey breast, or pieces of chicken, or fish filet). Cover with a very generous portion of white pipian sauce, and garnish with a pepper and a few olives and capers:
The pickled peppers provide a delightful hint of tanginess to the sesame/almond sauce. My husband channeled his inner Greek and squeezed a few drops of lemon on his portion; he liked it a lot, so, if peppers are not available, using my husband’s suggestion might be a good alternative.
This post is dedicated to Jim@auniquetitleforme who has found some of my recipes appetizing but despises onions (none in this recipe!), and to Victoria@familymatters, who often has the kindest comments for my posts and recipes but cannot eat nightshades (lemon instead of peppers in this one!)