The Washington Post

Red Pepian

Red Pepian 6.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Top Tomato 2011 Aug 17, 2011

This is a Guatemalan pepian; Mexico has its own, spelled "pipian." New Yorker Melissa Pitts grew up with this red version in her house. The recipe comes from her aunt Claudia.

Just about any kind of meat works in this dish, which comes together fairly quickly. Here, cooked chicken is used. Pitts serves it over white rice that's studded with peas (to add a little color). Sometimes she adds chunks of 2 boiled, peeled chayotes or potatoes to make it even more special.

Serve with rice or tortillas.

Make Ahead: You'll need to soak the dried chili pepper in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes before getting started.

Servings: 6 - 8
  • 5 red, ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
  • 3 tomatillos, husked then cut in half
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small dried guajillo chile pepper, soaked in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes, then seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin or squash seeds)
  • One 3 -inch cinnamon stick, preferably the soft kind (available in Latin markets)
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
  • White and dark meat from 1 purchased rotisserie chicken, shredded (about 5 cups)
  • Salt (optional)


Combine the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and the soaked, chopped chili pepper in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid; place over medium heat and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until most of the vegetables have softened. Remove from the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds, pepitas and cinnamon stick; toast for about 6 minutes, shaking the skillet a few times to keep the contents from burning. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, combine the vegetable mixture with its liquid and the toasted mixture in a blender (with the center knob of the lid removed so steam can escape; cover the opening with a dish towel to avoid splash-ups). Add up to 1 cup total of the broth, if needed, in order to process into a fairly smooth puree.

Strain the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer back into the pot that was used to cook the vegetables, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible; you should have about 4 cups. Discard the solids.

Place the pot over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 to 3 cups of broth and the shredded chicken. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Taste and season with salt, if desired. Remove from the heat; after a few minutes, the sauce should thicken slightly (see NOTE).

Serve hot.

NOTE: If the mixture seems thin after cooking, stir in a slurry of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water and cook for a few minutes, until thickened. For an intense red color, add 1/4 teaspoon of achiote paste.

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Recipe Source

From Top Tomato 2011 finalist Melissa Pitts of New York, N.Y.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 8): 230

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 9g 14%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 85mg 28%

Sodium: 135mg 6%

Total Carbohydrates: 5g 2%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 3g

Protein: 27g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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