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Chicken Pipian is the kind of dish I cook for the holidays. It’s a Filipino recipe which has a culinary and historical pedigree that runs deep. Pipian (‘Pepian’ to some) traces its origins to Vigan, Ilocos Sur, a UNESCO World Heritage City and home town of the late President Elpidio Quirino Our aunt, Attorney Aleli Angela G. Quirino described it: “Pipian is a chicken stew using pasotes, an herb brought in from Mexico by the galleon trade in the 16th century. In the Philippines, pasotes is grown only in Ilocos Sur. According to the Mexican Ambassador, a recent guest of Eddie Quirino, Ilocos Tourism Council President, this dish with the herb epazotes is still served in Mexico to this day.”
I found a recipe in the cookbook Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. The authors trace the recipe back to Rusty, the cook from the Syquia Mansion, where the late President Quirino lived in Vigan.
I cooked this Pipian in my American kitchen from a recipe by cousin Gina Quirino Adea. All the Pipian versions had the unique Ilocano flavors of a dish that was a favorite of the Quirino brothers: Ernesto, President Elpidio, Eliseo and Antonio, and sister Rosa, during their time.
The toasted rice grounded and mixed with crushed peanuts made for a rich, savory tomato sauce base. The tender chicken cutlets simmered in the thick broth and brought on a tangy, nutty aroma that reminded me of past Christmases. It was an heirloom recipe that brought the past to the present and reminded me of what Christmas was all about — family and love.
- Large Stockpot
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the stew
- 4 pounds chicken cutlets, bone-in, skin-on, about 10 pieces
- ½ cup rice grains, white rice preferred
- ¾ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 whole large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 whole large tomatoes, sliced
- 1 Tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
- ¼ cup calamansi or lemon juice
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon achuete powder (annatto)
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish
- steamed rice
To marinate chicken:
- In a large bowl, marinate the chicken pieces in dried oregano, olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper. Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
To prepare the rice-peanut sauce base:
- When ready to cook, toast the uncooked rice grains in a small skillet over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Do not leave this unattended or it will burn. Toss the grains around with a turner.When the rice grains turn brown and are fragrant, remove from the stove top and let it cool.Place the toasted rice and peanuts in a food processor or blender. Process for 1 minute till crushed and combined. Set aside.
To cook the stew:
- In a large stockpot, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil. When oil is hot enough, braise the chicken pieces for about; 8 minutes on each side till they are brown. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.In the same stockpot, over medium heat, saute the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Pour the patis, calamansi or lemon juice, tomato paste and chicken broth. Add the achuete powder. Stir ingredients. Cover and simmer this sauce for about 8 minutes.Add the dried oregano, and the ground rice-peanut mixture, which will thicken the sauce. Stir the sauce to combine. Return the chicken pieces to the simmering stockpot.Lower heat to a slow simmer and stir every few minutes. The ground rice should cook in a very low heat or it will burn at the bottom of the stockpot. Season with salt and ground black pepper.Cover and continue cooking for about 45 to 50 minutes till chicken is done.Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve warm with rice.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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