Mexican chicken and fruit stew: Manchamanteles
Literally meaning "tablecloth stainers", because of its deep red sauce, manchamanteles can be made with chicken, pork, or a combination of the two. In Puebla, where it originated, the fruit that is used varies from season to season and family to family, but plantains and pineapples are always included.
For the chicken:
- 2 chickens, cut into serving pieces
- 1 medium white onion, studded with 2 cloves
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 sprigs each thyme and marjoram
- salt to taste
- water to cover
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons lard or oil
- 8 ancho chiles, seeded and deveined
- 2 oz. blanched almonds
- 1 1/2 inch stick cinnamon
- 4-6 roma tomatoes, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 small white onion, sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 plantains, peeled and sliced
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 3 thick slices fresh, sweet pineapple, cut into chunks
- 1 small apple, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
- 1 small pear, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- salt to taste
Put the cut-up chickens in a stockpot with the onion, carrots, garlic, herbs, salt to taste and water to cover.
Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook, covered, until tender.
Allow the chicken to cool in the broth, strain the broth and reserve. Cover chicken pieces and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of lard or oil in a large, heavy saucepan or cazuela and saute the chiles, stirring constantly, just until their fragrance is released; take care not to burn them, since this will result in a bitter flavor.
Put them in a bowl with broth to cover for 20 minutes.
Add another half tablespoon of lard or oil to that remaining in the saucepan where the chiles were sauteed, and fry the almonds, cinnamon, cloves, tomatoes, onion and garlic until the tomato just begins to release its juice.
Put this mixture in a blender with the chiles and the broth in which they were soaked and puree until smooth, using the highest setting. This will probably need to be done in two batches.
Heat the remaining half tablespoon of lard or oil in the same saucepan and pour in all the blended ingredients through a wire mesh strainer, using a spoon to push through as much of the sauce as possible.
Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, gradually adding 4 cups of the reserved broth.
Add the plantains, sweet potatoes, fruit, sugar and salt to taste and continue cooking, covered, over low heat for another 20 minutes.
Add the cooked chicken and heat through.
Serve in bowls, accompanied by white rice and warm tortillas.
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