Cooking Like A Mexican

October 14, 2019
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

Pipian

Did you know that most pumpkins you have seen and carved for Halloween originally come from Mexico? The species was domesticated more than 10,000 years ago by the natives who lived in what is now Mexico. Here, not only are pumpkins wanted for their flesh, but also for the flowers from the plant, the seeds, stalks and everything. It was the Spaniards who took it to Europe and it gradually made its way to Ireland and the jack o’ lantern was born.

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All plants known as “Cucurbita” or pretty much any pumpkin can reach a great size, and most pumpkins are very fleshy. This crop was a staple in prehispanic times, but more so because of the seeds -which we call “pepitas” in Mexico- since there are so many seeds in a pumpkin, they are high in protein, and do not spoil too much. Pumpkin has a similar story to corn; it was so easy to grow, that the nomad groups of people would take some seeds with them and plant them wherever they went. In this process, pumpkins started to change and evolve, giving us many different subspecies. The genetic engineering was so successful the bitter taste was eliminated from pumpkin, they grew larger and had more seeds.

The oldest proof of the existence of pumpkins was found in a cave in Oaxaca, where seeds from around 8,300 to 10,000 years ago were found. Some other discoveries include Tamaulipas dating of 2,000 a. C and Puebla 5,200 a.C.

Like many plants in Mexico, pumpkins were used medicinally to fight stomach worms (the alkalinity of the flesh was very powerful), as a vitamin, to better vision, and as an aid in fluid retention.

Pumpkin seed can be consumed raw, dry, and toasted. They have a sweet, nice taste that adds a crunchy touch to any recipe. When not eaten on their own as a snack, Pepitas are often used to decorate cakes, make desserts, baked goods, along with cereals, but most importantly in moles and to thicken sauces and salsas.

Moctezuma was a proven military commander, yet in just two years his rule and the supremacy of his Mexica people collapsed, conquered by a few hundred Spanish adventurers. He ruled over the empire of the Mexica, as they called themselves – it is pronounced Mesheeka, while the term Aztecs was introduced by later writers – from 1502.

His favorite dish -or one of them- was “Totolin Patzcalmollo,” an early version of what we know as mole de pipian. The original dish was made with wild duck, although now it is prepared with chicken or pork. In its early stages, the dish consisted of a simple mole made with red tomatoes, red chiles and ground pumpkin seeds. Pipian took its name after the term “pepitoria,” in a confusion in translation with the Spanish who called pepitoria pretty much any prehispanic preparation.

Pipian Verde has many variations within the different states of the country, but Puebla is where it reached such popularity that is found in almost all traditional restaurants all year round.

Ingredients:

1 large chicken cooked and portioned (save the stock too)

1 lb. of green tomatoes (tomatillo)

200 grams of pepita or pumpkin seed

100 grams of clean, peeled almonds

3 poblano peppers

3 green chiles (can be less or more, depending on how much heat you’d like)

½ bunch of fresh parsley

½ bunch of fresh cilantro

4 sprigs of epazote

A pinch of cumin

A pinch of clove

A pinch of cinnamon

2 garlic cloves

¼ of an onion

A nut sized ball of tortilla masa

2 tbsp of vegetable oil or pork lard

Salt and pepper to taste

    •    In a pot, boil until cooked the tomatillos and green chiles.

    •    Blend with the onion and garlic.

    •    Fry in a deep saucepan with the oil or lard.

    •    Once that is cooked, blend the cumin, epazote, parsley and cilantro and add to the saucepan (you can use a little chicken stock to blend, but just enough, the sauce should be thick)

    •    Toast the almonds and pumpkin seeds, and the poblano peppers separately. Blend these too.

    •    Add the seed and pepper paste last.

    •    At the very end, when everything is incorporated, add the small ball of masa and let simmer on very low heat, taste for salt and pepper. The consistency should be thick but pourable.

    •    You may add the chicken pieces to the pipian while on the saucepan or serve the chicken and bathe in the sauce on top.

    •    Serve with rice.