September 2, 2010 12:30 PM
Deliciously Sweet: Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce
POSTED IN: Recipes , Main Courses
TAGS: Apricot , Chicken , Chipotle , Food , Holiday , Mexican , Tamarind
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It seems that many people find chicken boring.

I happen to find it fascinating.

Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up. 

When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.

Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.   

I have that dissonant image of them plucking those birds, because if you had met my grandmother, you would have probably thought, like me, that she was one elegant and classy lady. Here's an old photo I found (do excuse my 80's bangs and shoulder pads...) 

Tamarind Chicken 2.jpg
Ok, now that I was going through old albums, I found this other one. And I think that my mom happens to be a classy lady too... (aside from the bangs and shoulder pads, I am wearing one of those Wang Chung vests, remember?)

Tamarind Chicken 3.jpgMy Lali, as we called my grandmother, was an extraordinary cook. I could write down pages and pages listing the dishes she made that I loved. My favorite ones always had a sweet spin to them. The roasted duck with the plum sauce, the chicken paprika with sweet pimientos, the stuffed cabbage with that heart warming sauce...

If I could have my Lali over for Rosh Hashanah next week, I would treat her with the Chicken with Tamarind and Apricots I learned to make from Flora Cohen right before I got married. A cookbook writer and teacher from Syrian ancestry, who like my grandmother, was an immigrant who made Mexico her home bringing along exotic flavors from her birthplace. Flora was known to turn ignorant brides, who did not know how to boil an egg, into competent cooks who could bring bliss to the tummies of their new husbands (hey, at least my husband didn't starve in those first years...) 

And just like many of my Lali's dishes, from Austria, Flora's Syrian meals took a joy ride with Mexico's native ingredients.

People wonder about the existence of Jewish Mexican cuisine. This dish is but one example. After I was asked to teach a class on Jewish Mexican cooking, I realized it could have been an ongoing series. Just a small window into the fascinating twists and turns that foods take on as they travel through the world in unimaginable kinds of luggage and intermingle with their new homes... 

But for now, I leave you with this chicken, which can become a staple in your home. That's how good it is. 

After you rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper... 

Tamarind Chicken 4.jpg
Don't remove the skin! PLEASE!! It WILL turn crispy and it will also help the chicken be extra moist and flavorful.

Tamarind Chicken 5.jpg
Heat the oil in a large and deep skillet over low heat. Place the chicken skin side down. You don't want the chicken pieces to be cramped on top of each other, if they are, use two skillets.

The chicken is going to brown for an hour. I know this sounds like a lot of time, but you can make the rest of your dinner during that time, like your rice, pasta or salad.  Browning the chicken like this, flipping it once or twice in between, makes the skin crisp and the fat underneath the skin melt. Slowly, deliciously. It makes the chicken so juicy and soft, it practically comes off the bone!

After about an hour the chicken looks like this.

Tamarind Chicken 6.jpg
It is already flavorful as it has basted in its own juices... Now lets take it a step further.

Pour the water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer.

Tamarind Chicken 7.jpg
Pour the tamarind concentrate. You can easily make the concentrate at home, or buy it in most Latin or International stores. If you don't find concentrate, but find tamarind paste, dilute 2 tablespoons of the paste and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 3/4 cup warm water. The tamarind brings a rich and tangy flavor to the dish... 

Tamarind Chicken 8.jpg
Add a couple generous tablespoons of apricot jam.

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Spoon the Chipotles in Adobo sauce, or f you want it more piquant, drop in a couple whole Chiles in there too... Their smoky and sweet flavors complement the rest of the ingredients.

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Stir in the chopped dried apricots. I found some Turkish ones at the store, with a deeper brown color. They were so meaty...

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Stir it all and bring it to a steady medium simmer, for about 35 minutes more. The sauce will have thickened and become outrageously sticky (sticky in a really good way). I love the chunks of apricot in there.

Tamarind Chicken 12.jpg
A Sephardic dish with a Mexican influence. Perfect for holidays, this chicken dish is a crowd pleaser. A bit spicy, a bit sweet, a bit tangy, crisp and moist... It can be one of those safe cards to play, just like that passed down brisket recipe...

Tamarind Chicken 13.jpg
Now, I didn't have to kill and pluck a chicken, but I think my Lali would be pleased. I learned my lesson well, and I am trying to learn to cook chicken, in more than a thousand tasty ways.

Serves 8

1 whole chickencut into pieces, plus two more pieces of your choice, with skin and bones
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste
1/2 cup safflower or corn oil
4 cups water
1/2 pound dried apricots, about 3/4 cup, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
3/4 cup tamarind concentrate, can be store bought or homemade (recipe follows) or substitute with 2 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 1 tbsp sugar and 3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo sauce, or more to taste, add chiles if you please

Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a deep extended skillet, heat oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add chicken pieces in one layer, bring heat to medium-low, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for one hour. Turn them over every once in a while, so they will brown evenly on all sides.

Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer. Incorporate the apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce and salt and stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 to 40 minutes more. You may need to bring down the heat to medium.

The sauce should have thickened considerably as to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Taste for salt and heat and add more salt or chipotle sauce to you liking.

I love that story about your Grandmother and Mom. I love how people's families are just rich with traditions with cooking. It can always take you back.

I am going to try this dish this weekend! It just sounds so good!

What do you serve with it? Maybe I should read the whole recipe and I bet you tell us!



Jennifer Leal | September 3, 2010 3:48 AM

Hi Jen! I like to serve it with white rice. But anything that you can soak that sauce with goes! Pasta or Cous Cous, but nothing too dressed up, as what really shines is the chicken with the sauce ; )

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jennifer Leal | September 3, 2010 10:09 AM

Hi Pati,
Thanks for this great post!
What a wonderfully rich cooking heritage you have. I cannot think of anything more fabulous than bringing the Great Jewish cooking traditions to Mexico and having those two powerhouses of cuisine fuse! Goodness, just thinking about that makes me as happy as can be!
I am Jewish, and a great cook and I wish I had that rich and fertile tradition that you were born into.
My Mom's greatest meal was spaghetti with Heinz Ketchup chugged on top.
However her mother, as it was told to me was one of the great Russian cooks whose cooking talent made people weep for pure joy, it was that amazing.
Happily, I believe I inherited my grandmother's gift for cooking and baking, thank goodness:D!
I have been to Mexico so often and completely understand this happy fusion of cuisines.

Cheryl S. | September 4, 2010 9:33 PM

Hi Cheryl,
Your comment made me so happy ; ) It is, as you say, one interesting fusion of cuisines, flavors and traditions... A lot of colors in a wild palette!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Cheryl S. | September 4, 2010 10:21 PM

oh Pati- such beautiful family photos- you are beautiful and your mother- your grandmother- gorgeous. i loved the story you told-heartwarming. and a scrumptious recipe. x shayma

shayma | September 7, 2010 10:29 PM

Thank you Shayma, I throughly enjoy reading YOUR stories ; )

Pati Jinich replied to comment from shayma | September 7, 2010 11:32 PM

Three things:

(1) I am so happy to have discovered your blog through The Kitchn. I love everything about it and, after reading the second recipe, I have already added your blog to my blogroll.

(2) Jewish Mexican cooking? That blows my mind!

(3) I realize that the point of this recipe is the chicken, but I wonder if there is some way to vegetarian-ize this recipe. I love the flavor profile and I want to try this, but we don't eat too much animal protein at our house. Any ideas?

Sunshine [at] The Culinary Vampire | September 17, 2010 9:31 AM

I am so glad you found my blog too! Yes of course you can play with these flavors! In the vegetable world, it seems to me that eggplant would be a wonderful candidate, zucchini too ; )

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sunshine [at] The Culinary Vampire | September 17, 2010 9:52 AM

after looking carefully at your photo where you mention darker turkish apricots, I would like to point out that those things are figs! I have never seen an apricot with tiny seedlings inside.
But I am sure, either would be delicious.

thanks for all your yummy recipes.

barbara klatt | December 27, 2010 12:55 PM

Hi Barbara,
I know its funny. But they are not figs! They are Dark Turkish Apricots proudly sold at Whole Foods (said to have no additives or preservatives and naturally dried...), you can check for yourself if you have a store near by... (!!!)
But come to think of it, figs would also be good...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from barbara klatt | December 28, 2010 12:21 PM

this looks crazy/delicious. i will try making it. thanks for sharing.

betty | February 22, 2011 9:30 PM

I have researched, cooked, and studied Mexican Cuisine for many years. This recipe is a great mix of flavors that is very pleasing. I remember having a dish in Ensenada called "Cordonices en Salsa de Chabacano" that had similar flavors. I prepared this recipe and got really rave reviews form my family. For those of you who are wondering, this is a real keeper.

Thanks you for sharing Pati

Bill gibson | March 28, 2011 12:58 PM

Thank you, so happy you enjoyed it!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Bill gibson | March 28, 2011 3:31 PM

Just served this for Passover dinner, and it was a hit! I loved how juicy and tender the chicken was, and the tangy/spiciness of the sauce. This was so incredibly easy to make too, just time in the pan to achieve wonderful flavor. Thanks for giving me new inspirations for creating new traditions around food for my family.

JR | April 20, 2011 12:15 AM

Pati, my family and I are getting ready to move to Mexico, thank you for all the fabulous recipes and for your down to earth attitude about cooking. Love your show, love this site. My kids think your food is amazing (and so do my husband and I). Thank you so much for helping me get my kids excited about our move!

Jenn | April 30, 2011 11:34 AM

Thank you for great recipy. I saw the pictures and had to make it. My douce thought didn't thicken? I am wondering what went wrong. It seems to mee 4 cups of water probably was too much. But so far it tastes really interesting. Will see if my husband will like it.

Dzidra | May 7, 2011 9:12 PM

Hola Jenn,
Congratulations on your upcoming move! When you arrive, you should try to visit El Cardenal and El Bajio, they are two of my favorite restaurants in Mexico City. Great ready for a whole new world of food!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jenn | May 13, 2011 11:36 AM

I absolutly love the sound and looks of this dish, and can't wait too try it! Thankyou,

Sandy Rivers | July 19, 2011 12:15 PM

Hola Sandy, I hope you adore it! Let me know how it goes.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sandy Rivers | July 20, 2011 2:11 PM

I love your show. Fortunately it airs on Saturday so I plan my activities around when you come on. I love your recipes, too. Keep teaching us about your beautiful culture. Thanks

Sandra Langley | August 1, 2011 2:07 PM

Sandra, you are too kind. I feel fortunate that you are able to watch the show on Saturday and I am honored to be able to share stories about my culture with you. I hope you continue to enjoy watching!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sandra Langley | August 1, 2011 3:16 PM

Hi Pati!
Positively love your show!! And being raised in northern Mexico, I too was drawn to your wonderful handling of diverse flavors. Also love your theme song and was wondering where I could download it.
Congrats on a beautiful show y viva Mexico!

Raul Laforcada | August 13, 2011 2:01 PM

Hola Raul, I too love the theme song! It is by a great group called DomingoSiete and you can buy their music here: . The theme song is called "Dame" but I honestly love all of their music :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Raul Laforcada | August 15, 2011 10:07 PM

I cant wait to make this!!!!

Arlene Arricaberri | August 16, 2011 10:20 PM

Pati, this seems perfect for Rosh Hashana. Do you ever make it in advance and reheat either later the same day or the next day?


Beth Heifetz | September 17, 2011 8:02 AM

Yes Beth, you can make it in advance! Just re-heat covered either in the oven or in the casserole on the stove top over low heat until very hot, before serving.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Beth Heifetz | September 19, 2011 5:48 PM

Hi pati,
This is the second day in a row I am making this dish. The first time when I made it, my family loved it. We are going for a party and voila, I am making it, enjoying the fragrances emanating from my kitchen....

Aditi | May 6, 2012 11:10 AM

So glad your family loved it Aditi! Let me know how it goes over at the party!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Aditi | May 9, 2012 3:35 PM

Thanks for this recipe. I originally saw it in the NY Times when it was first published there. It sounded terrific and I cut it out to make a some indeterminate point in the future. As these things happen, it never got made and I lost the recipe. Fast forward months (a year?) and I'm now in Guanajuato researching my restaurant options. Lo and behold, as I click on the links in a blog that I happen upon in my research I come across this recipe again! Now that I'm here in Mexico, I'd like to buy the best tamarindo option for this recipe. What tamarindo product shall I look for in the mercado -- shall I ask for "pasta de tamarindo" or some other thing?

Love those shoulder pads!

Steve | June 22, 2012 10:43 PM

White Rice with Fideos; Where do l find the recipe?

Christina | June 30, 2012 1:23 PM

Here is the link to the recipe Christina Hope you enjoy!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Christina | July 2, 2012 11:16 AM

This dish is SPECTACULAR! Bravo, Pati and Flora!
After I started browning my chosen chicken thighs, the excess rendered fat and limited time dictated that I remove the skin :-(. I also used some canned apricots to extend the sauce. Without the browning step it is still very tasty and even easier to make.
I believe that this dish could be made with most dried fruits. It definitely reminds me of my favorite Moroccan and Persian dishes.
It is a tragedy that dishes featuring fruits or vegetables are still rare in the Mexican restaurants of southern California.
So looking forward to your cookbook!

Mike | July 6, 2012 2:02 AM

Hola Mike, I am so glad you enjoyed the Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Mike | July 6, 2012 5:31 PM

I found that if I use an ordinary yogurt as well as include a spoonful of sugar free of cost jam it creates an excellent little treat.

Viva Hush | November 20, 2012 7:29 AM

Gracias, Viva! Thank you for sharing. Sounds delicious!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Viva Hush | November 26, 2012 4:57 PM