For Jorge Vallejo, roast chicken is a symbol of his childhood, of precious time spent with his family – a true comfort food that epitomises the feeling of home. The dish takes on a special significance for Vallejo, who as a young child asked his parents for a whole roasted chicken for his birthday.
“One of the nicest memories I have of eating chicken is when I was a kid, with my dad,” Vallejo says. “We used to go to a chicken restaurant close to our house, called Pollos Rio. I asked him if I could have a whole roast chicken to myself for my birthday – that moment was a revelation, to be able to eat a whole chicken dish all to myself.”
Today, Vallejo has chosen to cook his signature chicken casserole, a hearty dish that bears no resemblance to the intricate, colourful plates he produces at his restaurant, Quintonil, but which uses plenty of the ingredients found there, like Ocosingo mushrooms and local herbs.
“It makes sense that I want my family to experience the way our diners eat at the restaurant, with first-class ingredients from good origins,” Vallejo says.
While chicken casserole is not a typically Mexican dish, Vallejo’s version uses all local ingredients, such as nopal cactus, tomatillos and quelites, or green herbs that represent Mexican cuisine. These can be substituted with ingredients from your own country.
Follow the recipe below to make Jorge’s home-cooked chicken casserole, or pollo a la cazuela.
Whole organic chicken
20g hoja santa
½ white onion
300g fingerling potatoes
1 clove garlic
Pinch of salt
1. Place pot on medium heat, add butter, then olive oil
2. Seal chicken and set aside
3. Thinly slice onion, add butter and sauté
4. Add crushed garlic and herbs
5. When onion is golden, lower heat and return chicken to pot
6. Bathe with cooking liquid and cover; keep at low heat
7. Boil water with salt, add potatoes until al dente
8. When chicken is half cooked, season with salt
9. Add potatoes and purslane, return to cook
10. Portion chicken and serve
Go inside Jorge’s home to watch him prepare his signature chicken casserole: