I love learning new things, especially new cooking things. Be it techniques, flavors, ingredients, I love it. The world is so full of delicious and unique goodies, we would need to live several lifetimes in order to appreciate them all. There is a flower/plant that is very popular in Panama, the Caribbean and Mexico. In Panama and the Caribbean it is known as Saril or Red Sorrel. In Mexico, they call it Flor de Jamaica (Jamaican flower) and they use it for their aguas frescas–essentially, flavored (infused) waters.
These next 3 shots were taken by Peter, Mr. P. de Panama. A US expat living in my little country, who kindly allowed me to use his shots in exchange for the link to the recipe featuring them. I think I got the best end of that deal. Definitely take some time to visit his Flickrstream, he has some awesome photos here.
Similarly, I’ve been drinking Ponche de Saril (Saril punch) since I was a little kid; my mom and aunts would sit around for hours piting the flowers, then they would steep them with lots of ginger. To serve it, sugar and sometimes lime juice was added and then the drink is poured over lots of ice. It is one of the most beautiful and refreshing things you’ll ever drink, an awesome combination of tartness and zing. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
That was the only use I was aware of for this flower, a relative of the common hibiscus plant. Recently, I read a post by one of my fave foodies, Lesley over at The Mija Chronicles. She used the reconstituted flowers to make quesadillas, then I discovered she has a fascination with the little flower and has prepared and eaten many dishes incorporating it. To say I was intrigued does not cover it. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The possibilities seemed endless once I realized the genius of exploiting the flavors of the miracle flower. What to do…?
As you can see, the flower is a bright purplish red, the color intensifies when dried. The liquid, broth, tea, water, whatever we should call it, is a beautiful ruby red, a bit more intense than the color of cranberry juice. I wanted to make sure that the dish I created continued to pay homage to the vibrancy of the flower’s color. Saril’s flavor profile could be compared to that of fresh cranberries, I guess. Except, not as tart, giving way to a slight sweetness along the way. Again, I needed to preserve those flavors in the final product: chicken would open itself up to the flavors. A bit of heat and we would be golden. Want to see?
Chicken in Saril and Ancho Sauce
For the chicken
1 whole chicken, cleaned
2 carrots, halved
1/2 cilantro bunch
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 tbsp Herbs d’Provence
1 tbsp sea salt
Remove the innards from the bird’s cavity and rinse the chicken under cold tap water. Place all the ingredients, except for the chicken and water in a stockpot, rest the chicken over them, then fill the pot with enough water to completely cover and submerge the chicken. Place on the stove on high heat until it comes to a boil. Once it boils, lower the temperature just enough to keep it at a slow boil (about medium-high flame) and allow it to cook for another 20 minutes.
At the end of the 20 minutes, turn off the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let it steam for another 30-45 minutes. Remove the chicken to cool and reserve the broth. This will result in the most beautiful, flavorful, moist chicken meat ever and the broth is amazing. Once the chicken has cooled, break the chicken into pieces and remove the meat from the bones into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
For the sauce
2 cps reserved broth
2 ancho chilies, whole
2/3 cp dried saril
2 tbsp raspadura or dark brown sugar
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cp heavy cream, approx
Reserved chicken broth
Sea salt & black pepper
Place the raspadura, anchos and saril in a small pan with about 2 cps of the chicken broth, bring it to a slow boil for about 10-15 minutes, just until the chilies have softened. Puree in the blender until smooth.
Heat a pan large enough to hold all of the chicken meat and add the olive oil, onions and garlic, cook until the onions are soft and translucent. At this point add the cilantro then the flour and stir constantly over medium heat, don’t let the flour burn, this will help thicken the sauce later. Add the saril puree and enough broth to make the sauce runny, about the consistency of half & half.
Once the sauce thickens a bit, to about the consistency of heavy cream, stir in the cream then add the chicken and lower the temperature to a slow simmer. Allow it to cook for 20-30 minutes, long enough for all the flavors to come together. Serve over white rice, maybe even pasta and be ready to be oh so happy!