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Chicken In Garlic Chile Sauce Tacos Recipe – Diana Kennedy – 50 Women Game Changers In Food

by Jeanette on April 27, 2012 · 29 Comments
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Chicken in Garlic Chile Sauce Tacos

Chicken in Garlic Chile Sauce Tacos

This past Monday, I wrote about my passion for cooking for people with cancer and how I had gotten discouraged by someone’s remarks when I told them I wanted to teach cooking lessons for cancer patients and caregivers. Thanks to your support, and the support of my friends, family and Rebecca Katz, I am happy to report that I am back on track. While the words spoken by that person who questioned my credentials stung at the time, I have moved on and in fact feel even more determined to learn more about the connection between food and cancer, and to endeavor in my dream to teach others how to cook for cancer patients.

I’ve reached out to several local organizations about teaching cooking classes for cancer patients and their caregivers, and they have all been very receptive, so I am hoping that an opportunity will open up for me to follow my passion. Meanwhile, I have been cooking up a storm this week for a friend with cancer. Although I’ve only met her once, I was thrilled that she was receptive to letting me cook for her. I am also looking for local and online resources so I can learn more about nutrition and cancer. If you have any ideas, please let me know. I will be forever grateful.

I made two big pots of Magic Mineral Broth on Monday, did almost all the cooking on Tuesday, and delivered it all on Wednesday. I made a variety of soups Roasted Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup, Creamless Cream of Carrot Soup, Lentil Vegetable Soup with Brown Rice), a few vegetable dishes (Kale with Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries, Bok Choy and Mushrooms), Sundried Tomato Chickpea Hummus, Plain Congee (just rice and water), and some popsicles (Blueberry Mango) using a kit I received from the HopeFULL Company (although I came up with my own recipe, the kit comes with some fabulous recipes for nutritious pops). If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw some of my work in progress (I’ve been taking pictures using my hubby’s iPad and posting them).

Thankfully, I made this Chicken in Garlic Chile Sauce for chicken tacos earlier in the week so I could reheat it for dinner the other night. My kids love tacos – I think they just like eating with their fingers. This dish is called Pollo En Ajillo in Spanish and the recipe is from Diana Kennedy’s My Mexico cookbook. A few years back, someone suggested I read her cookbooks if I wanted to learn about authentic Mexican cuisine. I have to say, I never did until this week. Real Mexican food takes some preparation and it is not a cuisine I am familiar with. There are lots of chili peppers involved – I’d seen a wide assortment at our supermarket in the ethnic food aisles, but didn’t know what all of these were used for.

So, when I came across this recipe for Chicken in Garlic Chile Sauce and saw ancho chilies and guajillo chilies listed as ingredients, I thought it would be easy to find at the supermarket. Unfortunately, neither of these was to be found, so I picked up a pack of dried New Mexico chilies which looked similar to ancho chilies, and some jalapeño peppers in place of guajillo chilies. When I got home and Googled guajillo chilies, I discovered they are a milder chili, not as spicy as jalapeño peppers. New Mexico chilies are also a bit spicier than ancho chilies which are very mild. I still have a lot to learn about Mexican cuisine, but this week, I learned about the complex flavor and beautiful color of Mexican chili sauces. Although this recipe is very simple, with just a few ingredients, the flavor is rich and very garlicky.

I served the chicken shredded into bite-size pieces so they could be rolled up in corn tortillas easily. Topped with a few slices of jalapeño peppers, these chicken tacos were delicious. When I tried one of these chicken tacos, I kept the seeds in the jalapeño pepper slices which set my mouth afire. Thankfully, I was the guinea pig. Before serving the jalapeño peppers to the kids, I removed the seeds. Even my little guy had jalapeno peppers with is chicken tacos. I made a Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing to go along with these tacos.

Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

Today, a group of bloggers is celebrating Diana Kennedy as  Top 50 Women Game Changers In Food. Diana Kennedy has been described by the Washington Post as the “fiery chronicler of Mexican food traditions.”  Originally from the U.K., Diana Kennedy, often referred to as the Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine, lives in a house on a forested hill in the state of Michoacan, three hours west of Mexico City. Apparently, she is known for her “tart tongue, quick temper and withering appraisals of competitors.” At 88 years of age, she has spent the past 50 years traveling to some of the most remote corners of Mexico, researching cooking techniques and the history of authentic Mexican cuisine. Diana Kennedy is the author of nine cookbooks and a recipient of the Life Achievement Award from the International Association of Cooking Professionals.

Now for a few health tidbits. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, capsaicin, the active component found in chili peppers, is used to relieve pain, improve circulation, to treat cluster headaches and psoriasis, and for weight loss. In addition, the American Association for Cancer Research reports studies suggesting capsaicin is able to kill prostate cancer cells – tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of the untreated tumors.

And what about garlic? According to the National Cancer Institute, preliminary studies suggest that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

This Chicken in Garlic Chile Sauce recipe contains lots of chili peppers and garlic, so what could be better than a dish that not only tastes good, but provides protective qualities.

5 from 1 reviews
Chicken In Garlic Chile Sauce Tacos
Prep time
Cook time
Adapted from Diana Kennedy's My Mexico cookbook. Served with a simple salad, this is a wonderful make ahead meal.
Serves: 6-8
  • 3 pounds chicken parts
  • salt to taste
  • water
  • 4 ancho chilies or dried New Mexico chilies
  • 14 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup light or regular olive oil
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed, chopped
  • fresh corn tortillas, for serving
  • fresh jalapeno peppers, for serving (remove seeds unless you like very spicy food), cut into thin slices
  1. Put chicken pieces in a large pan in one layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and cover with just enough water to all chicken pieces are submerged. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook, turning pieces over once, until almost done, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken pieces to a plate. Strain water that chicken was cooked in and return to pot.
  2. Slit New Mexico chilies open and scrape out seeds and veins. Soak in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain, discarding soaking water.
  3. Put chilies in a blender with 1 cup of water; blend until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Blend garlic with ⅓ cup water and set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a skillet and add jalapeño peppers. Saute a few seconds until crisp, but not burnt. Add pureed garlic and cook over high heat for 10 seconds until liquid has evaporated. Add New Mexico chili puree and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of pot until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add strained chicken cooking liquid and heat. Add chicken pieces to pan and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes, turning pieces from time to time.
  7. Remove bones and skin from chicken. Shred chicken.
  8. Serve with warm corn tortillas (I warm them over my gas burner) and jalapeno pepper slices.

If you’re interested in joining our group as we cook our way through this list of 50 influential women in food, just ask Mary from One Perfect Bite. Please stop by and take a look at what the rest of the group made this week in celebration of  Diana Kennedy:

Annie from Most Lovely Things
Linda from There and Back Again
Val from More Than Burnt Toast
Taryn from Have Kitchen Will Feed 
Susan from The Spice Garden
Heather from girlichef 
Miranda from Mangoes and Chutney
Mary from One Perfect Bite
Sue from The View from The Great Island
Barbara from Movable Feasts
Nancy from Picadillo
Kathleen from Bake Away With Me
Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya of My Healthy Eating Habits
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook
Alyce – More Time at the Table
Amrita – Beetle’s Kitchen Escapades
Martha – Simple Nourished Living
Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

For more recipes from this weekly celebration, check out my 50 Women Game Changers In Food Pinterest Board as well as our group’s collaborative Pinterest Board.

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  1. Jeanette…Such a wonderful thing to do…cooking for people with cancer! It sounds like you are picking great recipes with plenty of antioxidants! Your tacos look fabulous and sound delicious! Great post!

  2. Lovely, thoughtful post. I am slowly learning that hot peppers are also good for the heart! Love these tacos – a cut above the usual fare – not surprisingly since Kennedy unearthed and created amazing Mexican recipes.

  3. Mmmm…amazing meal! So delicious. I think many people underestimate the actual complexity of real Mexican cuisine until they actually dive-in! On another note…I think it is AMAZING what you are doing (the cooking for cancer patients)…so wonderful. :)

  4. I am completely in love with capsaicin in all forms, and now I’m glad to know that it loves me back. While the heat isn’t for everyone, your approach to learning more about cooking for (and with) cancer patients and their caregivers is a model we should all want to emulate.

  5. Wonderful recipe – I’d never heard of Diana Kennedy until today – know I want to get hold of all her recipes – so delicious, full of flavor and healthy – perfect!
    mary x

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks to Diana Kennedy, I have a new appreciation for Mexican food and the complexity of flavors by using just a few ingredients, notably the different chilies.

  6. Don’t get discouraged on following your dream! I met Diana Kennedy at IACP last summer and she was quite the colorful character. This sounds like a lovely recipe!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks Kalyn – I would love to meet Diana Kennedy in person – she does sound like a color character.

  7. Jeanette the tacos sound great and the salad looks so yummy. I made some cookies last night and added ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder and mixed with dark chocolate, dried cherries, quinoa and oats they would have been the perfect desert for your guys!!!
    Don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing. If Diana Kennedy stands for anything it is for the relevance between cooking and community-you define that!

  8. Jeanette,
    Good luck to you with your endeavors reaching out to hospitals and cancer centers. I hope something great happens for you! I also need to learn more about working with chiles. Maybe I should start watching Rick Bayless on TV to see if I pick up something, Tacos are always great!

  9. I hope you saved one of two of these puppies for me. They sound delicious. I also found your information about chilies really interesting. I hope you have a fabulous weekend. Blessings…Mary

  10. I love Mexican food, but have not cracked the surface of the complexity either. You did a beautiful job with this chicken. I am thinking I should pick up some Diane Kennedy cookbooks…

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Mireya, Mary, Miranda, I am looking forward to trying some other authentic Mexican recipes after learning more by studying Diana Kennedy.

  11. I love tacos! You picked a great recipe to feature. It is very sweet of you to help the cancer patients. When my sister in law had breast cancer it was very challenging to cook for her. Her kemo make her really sick and some foods she found hard to keep down.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Veronica – that is why I want to help others learn how to cook for cancer patients. I think few people know what it’s really like unless they have a family member or close friend going through chemo.

  12. My eyes were opened to the different kinds of Chiles this week too. I was lucky, though, to know of a Korean supermarket that carries a bunch of Mexican foods too. So, I found a whole horde of chiles there and the ones I needed for my recipe. Your pick of the chicken recipes is lovely!

  13. I’m glad you’re sticking to your values and moving on with your project … be strong and keep at it! As for your chile dilemma … I find sourcing good peppers for cooking Mexican can be difficult in the northeast … so I plan to grow and dry my own this summer!

  14. What you’re aiming to do for cancer patients is admirable, and I hope everything works out for you. And these garlicky tacos sound really delicious! Love tacos but only ever made fish ones. I’ll definitely try this next!

  15. It sounds like you’re doing some great work Jeanette. I am sure your new friends is loving all your amazing, healthy meals.

  16. I hope that you have the opportunity to live your dream and teach classes for those suffering from cancer and their caregivers. As for todays meal it sounds so tasty!

  17. lov e these and I love your mission!

  18. Your chicken dish looks amazing. But, more importantly, the work you are doing to cook for people with cancer and teach cooking classes for cancer patients and their caregivers is inspired. Don’t let silly critical people deter you from your work. Rebecca Katz, is a great role model for you. I love her cookbooks. You may want to check out all the classes at the cooking school in NYC that she attended – The Natural Gourmet Institute – if you haven’t already. My sister and I took their core course in health supportive cooking at a retreat in Sedona several years ago and it was life transforming.

  19. Yummy! I am liking these tacos!

  20. These tacos are hot – in every respect :-)

  21. oooo spanish cuisine is one of my favorites to make, especially when i’m entertaining! i’ve never heard of ajillo until now (though i’m a spanish teacher!) thanks for sharing the recipe :).

  22. Looks fantastic, Jeanette. I love garlic chile sauce!

  23. Lovely weeknight tacos Jeanette!

  24. Teaching cooking to cancer patients and their caregivers sounds like a beautiful way to make a difference. Although I don’t know you but you seem like a lovely cook and person Jeannette. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and hope to hear more about them.

    And those tacos look delicious:)

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