Saturday, April 18, 2009

One-Pot is Hot

Delicious one-pot meals are at the top of my list of most useful recipes, especially for a busy student. This Chicken Tomatillo Stew is a favorite in our family, adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless, originally featured in Eating Well magazine in the Feb/Mar 2005 issue. The original recipe is unfortunately not available on the Eating Well website, but I found it here.

This stew is so simple to put together that the complexity of the flavors in the finished dish comes as something of a surprise. Prepping is just a matter of slicing up the onions, potatoes and tomatillos, and layering all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. Then the dish is baked long enough to release all the natural juices from the ingredients, creating a rich and tangy broth in the bottom of the pot.

It can be served simply, in a bowl garnished with cilantro, or do as we do in our household and add a lime wedge and diced avocado and serve with warm corn tortillas.

In my version of the recipe, I use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. There are several reasons for this -- they're cheaper than boneless, skinless thighs, and the bone keeps the meat from cooking too quickly and drying out (it probably adds flavor as well). Of course, this means it has to be cooked a little longer, but not much. Leaving the skin on adds fat to the dish, which is otherwise virtually absent, meaning deeper flavor and silkier mouth-feel. If you don't want the fat, just take the skin off yourself.

I also use two or three fresh jalapenos instead of pickled jalapenos and leave them whole during the cooking because I want the flavor but not all the heat. Lastly, I use two onions instead of just one, just because the stewed onion is so luscious.

Here is my version of the recipe:

Chicken & Tomatillo Stew

Makes 6 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes | Time to completion: 2 hours

2 medium white onions, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
3-4 medium red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2-3 fresh jalapenos
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves (leave some for garnish)
1 1/4 pounds tomatillos (about 12-16 medium)
Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, layer ingredients in the order they appear above, starting with the onion. Lightly salt each layer.
3. Bake, covered, for one hour. Remove lid and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes to reduce juices and brown chicken.
4. Serve garnished with cilantro.


Never heard of a tomatillo? It comes in a papery, pale green husk, and inside the husk is a plum-size fruit that looks like a green tomato. They can be found at most grocery stores in the produce section.


  1. I'm also a big fan of one-pot meals. I think I make some version of curry at least once or twice a week with whatever fresh vegetables I have lying around. Always delicious!

  2. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I haven't tried my hand at using tomatillos in any of my dishes yet - this inspires me to try! Could you do this in a slow cooker as well? (I'm not sure what the difference is.)

  3. Holly, I'm sure you could make this in a slow cooker. Good idea. The only differences would be a lot more liquid (and it would be less concentrated) and the chicken wouldn't get browned. I would definitely advise taking the chicken skin OFF for a slow cooker since it would just become soft and rubbery. Let me know how it goes if you try it!