Friday, May 11, 2012

50 Women Game Changers in Food - # 47 Zarela Martinez - Pebre de Pollo

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Zarela Martinez holds position 47 on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food. She is a restaurateur and cookbook author who was born in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta. While cooking seems to be an inherited talent, she did not begin her career as a chef until marriage to a widower with financial problems forced her to leave her job as a social worker and begin working in a restaurant kitchen. Her mother, the cookbook author, Aida Gabilondo, taught her to cook as a child and she was able to transfer those skills to a professional kitchen. She met Paul Prudhomme in a cooking class and he became her mentor. He introduced her to Craig Claiborne who featured several of her recipes in the New York Times, calling his feature, "Memorable Dishes from a Mexican Master Chef." That gained attention and her rise through the food circles began. She became the executive chef at Cafe Marimba in 1983, and in 1987 she moved on to open her own successful restaurant, Zarela. Her first cookbook, Food from My Heart was published in 1992. It was followed by The Food and Life of Oaxaca and Zarela's Veracruz. She also had a 13-part series, Zarela! La Cocina Veracruzana, that was featured on PBS. Although her restaurant closed last year, she continues to write and make appearances in keeping with the mission she set for herself many years ago. She has said, "I have a mission, which is to make my culture known and understood." She has helped and inspired a generation of young Hispanic chefs and restaurateurs, including her own son, Aaron Sanchez, to build a vibrant Latino food scene in this country. She has earned the accolades she has received.

I chose a fairly simple braised chicken entree to highlight the type of cooking that Zarela featured in her restaurant and cookbooks. The recipe comes from Zarela's Veracruz and it is an adaptation of a stew that was recommended to her by Doña Angeles Juárez Molina, a restaurateur in Tuxpan. It has decidedly Spanish overtones but lacks the vinegar punch of a true Spanish pebre, so the name is somewhat misleading. The sauce, however, is delicious and those of you who try this recipe will have no regrets. Here is Zarela's recipe for Pebre de Pollo or Chicken in Sweet-Tart Sauce.

Pebre de Pollo - Chicken in Sweet-Tart Sauce...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...courtesy of Zarela Martinez

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 – 5 cloves
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized white onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total), coarsely chopped
One 4-pound chicken, quartered
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup capers, rinsed, patted dry with paper towels, and spread out to dry completely
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade.
15 – 20 pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/2 cup dark raisins
2 tart, crisp green apples, cored and cut into eighths
1/4 cup dry sherry (I use fino)
Pickled jalapeño chiles (optional)

1) In an electric spice or coffee grinder or a mortar, grind peppercorns and cloves to a coarse powder. Set aside.
2) In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed skillet or wide saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil to rippling over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and pepper-clove mixture. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for 12-15 minutes, until mixture is lightly thickened. Let cool slightly and process to a puree in a blender. Set aside.
3) Season chicken with salt and a good grinding of black pepper. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil to rippling over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and cook, turning once, until lightly golden, allowing about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. Quite a bit of fat (rendered from the chicken skin) will now be in pan; pour off all but 2 tablespoons. With a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape bottom to loosen flavorful browned scraps.
4) Return pan to medium heat. When fat ripples, add capers and stir-fry for about 2 to 3 minutes, until they puff slightly and become brown and crisp. Scoop them out and set aside. Add reserved tomato puree and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until flavor is concentrated and fat is starting to separate. Stir in chicken stock, olives, raisins, apples, and all but about 1 tablespoon of the fried capers. Add reserved chicken pieces with any accumulated cooking juices. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is just done. (Actually, you’ll get best results if you add leg pieces first, wait 5 minutes, and then add breast pieces). Taste for salt and add up to 1 teaspoon if desired. Stir in sherry and cook about 5 minutes longer, until raw alcohol taste is gone. Serve at once, with remaining fried capers scattered over the dish. If you like, garnish with pickled jalapeños. Yield: 4 servings

The following bloggers are also featuring the recipes of Zarela Martinez today. I hope you'll pay them all a visit. They are all great cooks who have wonderful blogs.

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

Next week we will highlight the career and recipes of Cat Cora. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information no later than Monday, May 14th.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your recipes, even though they are sometimes too advanced for my pantry.

Angie's Recipes said...

The braised chicken sounds and looks really tasty. Thanks, Mary, for introducing another great chef to us.

Anonymous said...

This dish looks utterly wonderful and perfect for dinner :D
I am srue I can make a vege version
Thanks :)

Choc Chip Uru

Kim said...

All the flavors in one meal???? It looks good! Have a nice week end Mary!

Tanna said...

Love how everything except the olives sounds in this recipe. I don't know why I have no taste for olives... heaven knows I've tried. It is the only food I just cannot go. (I'd be better off if there were more!) LOL! Look forward to the Cat Cora post! blessings ~ tanna

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

Have a great weekend looks great !!!! As everything always that you make does!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Chicken in a sweet tart sauce does sound like something we would love to try.

Kathy said...

Mary, What a perfect choice! Your dish not only looks delicious, but it also sounds wonderful! Have a great weekend!

What's Baking?? said...

Wow..this is just wonderful..have a great day,Mary.

Jill~a SaucyCook said...

This dish looks and sounds wonderful. It is interesting that so many of the ingredients are identical to the mole I made. Mary, I am always so impressed with your research; I had no idea that Zarela had been a social worker prior to embarking on her culinary career. Have a wonderful weekend!

Barbara said...

Looks great, Mary. I thought for a second those were peaches instead of apples. Peaches might be interesting too, actually. Not as much crunch though.
Always love your game changer posts!

June said...

Oh my goodness - this looks and sounds incredible. I'll be putting it at the top of my list. Thanks Mary!

Claudia said...

I'm a convert. This is the 4th recipe of hers I have seen (so far) that I know I will be making.

Rumana Rawat said...

What a lovely dish...sounds great.

mireya @MyHealthyEatingHabits said...


I've never eaten a pebre, nor even heard of the dish, but this sounds perfectly scrumptious! It's packed with mixed flavors.

Ginny Hartzler said...

An unusual and interesting recipe, it would be GREAT in the fall, too!

Alyce said...

Lots of great tastes and one more wonderful chicken recipe. Happy Friday, Mary!

Suzie said...

There's alot going on in that dish! It looks good, it just has alot going on :) Looking forward to the Cat Cora post. Have a great weekend.

Heather S-G said...

Mmmm...this does sound like a delicious dish. I love all of the components!

Jennifer Kendall said...

what a delicious sounding meal! would love to try this!

Banana Wonder said...

Zarela looks like my mom!

My Little Space said...

South America style braised chicken ! Sounds interesting with such special flavour. Thanks so much for the introduction to all the wonderful chefs throughout the world. But this week, you should take a good rest cause it's Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day to you, Mary. Hope you're going to have a great time with your family....grandkids are coming home? Have fun!
Kristy ((hugs))

Jeanette said...

This dish reminds me a little of Chicken Marbella - will have to give this a try.

Veronica Miller said...

I don't think I've ever seen such an interesting food photo-it really drew me in and you can definitely tell it's an ethnic dish. I like the olives and raisins in it. Reminds me of picodillo! mmm

Bubbe Bites said...

Gosh what a tasty looking chicken dish. Another great recipe pick. Thanks for sharing with us.

Bites from life with the barking lot said...

This looks so good! Will try it soon. I love capers and raisins together.

AllThingsYummy said...

I just know I'm going to love this dish. Can't wait to try it.

Susan Lindquist said...

I always find the combination of olives and capers interesting ... they both pack such a wallop. There's just so much going on this dish that recommends it! That spicy tomato sauce is another interesting component! Great share, Mary!

France@beyondthepeel said...

This dish is screaming my name. I love the mix of sweet (raisins and apples)and salty/briny (capers and olives).

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