This rustic, hearty, and rich Southwestern dish contains a few ingredients layered over and over in different ways to create complex flavors. Garlic and onions appear in each step of the dish, roasted or raw. The chicken breasts are first used to flavor a broth which is used for the adobo, then they are torn into bite-sized pieces and added to the adobo sauce at the last minute. Chicken glace is added to the adobo to deepen the flavor. Three kinds of peppers are used in the adobo, each adding its own flavors and differing degrees of heat. While the taste is complex, each step is simple. The prickly pear pads, chicken, and adobo can all be made ahead of time and rewarmed, then combined at the last minute.
- Prickly pear pads - 8
- Water - 2 - 3 cups
- Pinch of salt
- Roasted Vegetables
- Garlic Cloves - 26 to 30, peeled
- Plum Tomatoes - 4
- Onions - 2, quartered
- Carrot - 1, cut into large sticks
- Chicken and Chicken Broth
- Whole Chicken Breasts - 2
- Water - to cover by 2 inches
- Bay Leaves - 4
- Oregano - 2 teaspoons
- Cilantro Sprigs - 1
- Carrot - 1, roughly chopped
- Onion - 1 small, roughly chopped
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Onion - 1, quartered and sliced
- Garlic Cloves - 5 roasted (above)
- Pinch of salt
- Adobo Sauce
- Chicken broth - 1 cup, reserved, (above)
- Garlic Cloves - 2 to 3 (raw)
- Garlic Cloves - 6, roasted, (above)
- Tomatoes - 4, roasted, (above)
- Onions - 2, roasted, (above)
- Carrot - 1, roasted, (above)
- Onion - 1/4 small, roughly chopped (raw)
- Pasilla Chilies - 10, softened in a little water
- Ancho chilies - 5
- Guajillo (mirasol) chilies - 2
- Chicken Glace - 1 tablespoon (chicken stock cooked down to a paste)
- Scallions - 2, cleaned and roughly chopped
- Pinch of oregano
- Pinch of salt
- Olive Oil - 1/4 cup
- Onion - 1/2, sliced
- Cinnamon Sticks - 3 to 4 short
- Pinch of whole black peppercorns
- Garlic Cloves - 16 to 20, roasted (above)
- Bay Leaves - 8 small
To roast the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spread the garlic, tomatoes, and onion sections on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour, or until soft and deeply browned. Remove and set aside.
To prepare the prickly pear pads: Remove the spines, scraping them off with a knife. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and boil the pads for 10 minutes. Drain. Bring a fresh pot of lightly salted water to a boil and boil the pads again for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside.
To prepare the chicken and broth: Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan or pot and cover by 2 inches with water. Add 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of the oregano, and the cilantro, chopped carrot, and chopped onion. Bring to a boil; skim any foam which rises. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the breasts from the water with tongs; set aside and let cool enough to handle. Reserve the broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and pull the meat into bite-sized pieces.
In a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the sliced onions until softened. Add the chicken pieces, remaining 2 bay leaves and teaspoon of oregano, 4 or 5 of the roasted garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Toss together, lower the heat slightly, and let simmer.
To prepare the adobo: Put 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a food processor. Put the raw garlic, roasted garlic, tomatoes, onions, and carrot in the processor. Add the raw onion. Cut the chilies into pieces and remove the seeds; add to the processor. Add the chicken glace, scallion, oregano, and salt. Moisten with the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock and process until smooth.
Put the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and add the sliced onion, cinnamon, and black peppercorns. Saute the onions until they are softened and begin to color. Add to the adobo puree and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Pick out the cinnamon sticks. Pour the mixture over the chicken in the skillet and heat together for 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve: Toward one end of each warmed serving platter, lay two prickly pear pads, crossing the stem ends. Spoon chicken adobo over the crossed ends and the platter. Garnish each plate with two small bay leaves and a scattering of roasted garlic cloves.