Sharing in the Feast

Date posted: Tuesday 05 February 2019

How do you share an experience with food? When I think of Guatemala, I think of the village women who get up early in the morning and build a fire in the middle of the church kitchen. I remember warming up by the fire early in the morning, laughing together even though we can't speak the same language. The women butchering chickens in the back and stewing them in a large kettle over an open fire, shucking beans and steaming banana leaves to make the best tamales I have ever eaten. I think of the women in their colorful skirts and blouses, with bowls of corn on their heads, walking to the local mill to grind the corn and then bring it back to the church to make mountains of tortillas with a dry grill over a wood fire. We laughed together as I awkwardly tried to make tortillas. The women teaching us how to roast cocoa beans, make it into paste, and make the most amazing chocolate drink.


So, when the Guatemala Friends group had a brainstorming session, I thought of food.


For the Guatemala Friends gathering in January, which included a Guatemalan feast, food preparation was part of the event. We made tortillas, using masa flour and water, mixing by hand, using a tortilla press and cooking them on a lefse grill. Friends from many churches were willing to dig in and prepare tortillas, cut up veggies, and cook various foods. Others were willing to pitch in and play guitar and lead the singing, sharing their stories of Guatemala.


Pepian Negro is one of my favorite recipes from Chef Amalia's Guatemalan Kitchen cookbook. This is my version that I used for the Friends of Guatemala event. I did 3 times the recipe, and roasted 10 lbs of chicken breasts.


Pepian Negro

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 small onion, cut into thick slices
  • 4 tomatillos, husked and quartered
  • 4 dried chiles (I used combination of guajillo, Zambo and ancho chiles)
  • 2 tablespoons instant corn masa flour, browned in a dry pan over medium heat until medium brown
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, browned in a dry pan
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, browned in a dry pan
  • 1/8 tsp Celon cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves



  1. Roast the chicken breasts at 425 until cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Shred chicken and reserve.
  2. Heat skillet and roast the tomatoes, onions and tomatillos until charred and mushy, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, Remove seeds and stems from dried chilies. Pour boiling water over the chilies and soak for 20-30 minutes. (Note: I pureed the chilies separately and added it to the stew to taste and served the extra sauce on the side for those who prefer more spice.)
  4. Combine the roasted vegetables, cilantro, ¾ cup of chicken stock, masa flour, chili mixture, roasted seeds, and cilantro. Puree with immersion blender. Then return to heat. Add shredded chicken and simmer gently to blend flavors. Add more broth if the sauce is too thick, and simmer longer if it needs to be thickened.
  5. Serve with homemade tortillas, and shredded cabbage slaw: shredded Chinese cabbage with lime juice, cilantro and green onions.


Debra McDermott
Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Roseville