Street Food Institute students typically get an opportunity to travel in Mexico as a part of their studies. This thick chicken stew comes from Tuxpan, south of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco. Chef David Sellers says the vegetables are typically roasted on a comal (griddle) over an open fire to lend a smoky character to the dish. You can get a similar result with oven roasting. Cuachala is traditionally eaten without a spoon, using corn tortillas to simply scoop up every tasty bite.

  • 3 1⁄2- to 4-pound stewing chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, plus 1 whole bone-in skin-on chicken breast, halved
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or marjoram
  • Water to cover, about 1 quart
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound zucchini or other summer squash, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1-pound eggplant, peeled and chopped into bite-size cubes
  • About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 ears corn
  • 8 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lard, preferably, or vegetable oil
  • 3⁄4 pound small tomatillos
  • 1 pound plum (roma) tomatoes, toasted on a dry griddle, comal, or heavy skillet until blackened with split skins
  • 3 tablespoons masa harina (corn flour for tortillas), stirred together with 3 tablespoons water to make a paste
  • Warm corn tortillas

Serves 8 or more

  1. Place chicken, onion, and oregano in a large pot with water to cover and salt to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. When breast meat is cooked through and tender, remove breasts and set aside on a plate to cool. When dark meat is cooked through and tender, a few minutes later, remove it and add it to the plate. When cool enough to handle, shred breast meat and dark meat separately. Discard bones, skin, and fat. Strain chicken broth. Pour half of broth into a blender and add dark meat. Puree. Pour out mixture into a medium bowl. Reserve remaining broth.
  2. While chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 425° F. Set aside half the zucchini and half the eggplant cubes. Place other half of each along with corn on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with enough oil to coat lightly. Roast vegetables for about 20 minutes, stirring a time or two, so that they get deeply roasted and browned. Set aside.
  3. Break open chiles and remove seeds and lighter red veins. Discard the veins. Toast chiles and seeds on a dry griddle, comal, or heavy skillet until lightly toasted and fragrant. Reserve seeds and soak chiles in hot water to cover until pliable, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add to blender (no need to wash it) the softened chiles, chile seeds, garlic, and enough broth to easily move blender blades. Heat lard in a stockpot, large cazuela, or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Scrape blender mixture into hot lard, being careful of splatters. Sauté several minutes, until somewhat dry and fragrant. Meanwhile, puree tomatoes and tomatillos in blender (again, no need to wash) and pour into stockpot, again watching out for splatters. Add remaining broth, pureed dark-meat-broth mixture, and salt to taste. Slice roasted corn kernels off cobs and add corn to stew.
  5. Dilute masa paste with several tablespoons of broth and whisk it into stew. Continue cooking over medium heat for another 5 minutes or until thickened lightly, with no raw corn flour taste. Add more salt if you wish. This stew should be quite thick. Continue cooking a few minutes longer, if needed. Just before serving, divide shredded chicken breast among bowls and then ladle in stew. Scatter roasted vegetable pieces equally over all bowls. Serve hot with a stack of warm tortillas.