Monday, October 29, 2007

Chicken mole

After Lisa at the Wei of Chocolate saw my Fair Trade Chocolate Cake to Stop Traffik, she advised me that her chocolate also made wonderful mole (rhymes with olé, pero sin la accento sobre la "e"). I told her that I'd always wanted to attempt mole, and she very kindly and generously donated chocolate to the cause. The results ... were nothing short of wonderful. I served it to five guests at a dinner party, and they all enjoyed it. I used an amalgamation of Rick Bayless' recipe and someone else's recipe they made to simplify it. In the end, though, it wast about 90% Bayless and 10% knockoff because I couldn't find all the different peppers Bayless used. In this dish, it can be difficult to dissect the sauce to figure out what ingredients compose the final wonderfully complex flavors, but you can guess at least some if you use the power of your mind to levitate each scent deep into the recesses of your brain, drawing from the ancestral place from where mole originated almost 300 years ago. Or you can stop analyzing it and forge on! Another good thing is it didn't take the hours and hours I was afraid it would. My first Mexican theme night took much longer ... way longer ...

Plated mole, with brown rice and chicken instead of the traditional turkey
Mole night

Mole ingredients, starring tomatillos. Moles can also use tomatoes or a combination of the two.
mole ingredients

All the ingredients
mole ingredients

Ancho chili pepper, canela, cloves
Mole night

Made sure my guests had something to much on while I cooked--salsa verde
Mole night

The salsa verde was really tasty with the fried carrot chips. Use caution when frying, lest you accidentally dip a couple digits into the hot oil. *sigh*
Mole night

Smoke detector with a gas mask, origami-style, as developed by Hun. I must do this whenever I roast or broil anything, and I did both with this recipe.
Mole night

Roasted and rehydrated. Warning--when roasting, step away from the pan lest you are blinded and suffocated by the chili cloud that rises.
Mole night

Blended in chili juice and pushed through a strainer. My strainer is one of my most dependable kitchen troupers.
Mole night

Roast the garlic the same way I roasted the peppers--in my iron skillet.
Mole night

I broiled the tomatillos under the broiler and toasted the sesame seeds in a frying pan. The almonds and raisins were fried up in the same frying pan.
Mole night

Raisins fried up in the pan--funny how they puffed up, aspiring to be grapes again.
Mole night

Toasted bread and Sensual Love Wei of Chocolate
Mole night

All that stuff goes into the blender: tomatillos, sesame seeds, garlic, raisins, almonds, toast, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, then some water
Mole night

Abusing my strainer with a whisk to push the puree through
Mole night

Chili puree into the pot! I sauted the chicken in the pot, then scraped up the fond (tasty brown bits) to start the sauce. I added the chili puree and cooked it down to a paste, to which the tomatillo mixture is added, and then some water. Then the sauce is cooked for 45 minutes (though I went longer, trying to thicken it up).
Mole night

I served it in a deep, narrow dish to keep it warm and make it easier to ladle out
Mole night

Clockwise, from the mole at the top: brown rice, cubed chicken, pepino (cucumber salad with vinegar and cayenne), roasted veggies (red and yellow pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, with fresh oregano, salt, and olive oil), and sesame seeds for self-garnishing in the middle
Mole night

Plate--note that I followed the good-nutrition rule to fill half the plate with veggies
Mole night

Dessert! Chris brought chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon frosting, and they were delicious. The dish on the left holds persimmons, and on the right, papaya. The Mexican wedding cookies I made are in the blue bowl, and apricots are in the little ramekin (they were not so good)
Mole night

I sent as much home as I could, and there was still just enough for leftovers for a few days. Two containers with chicken mole, and one with roasted veggie mole ... mmmmm ...
Mole night

Adapted from Fiesta at Rick's by Rick Bayless.

Ingredients

1/2 cup rich-tasting pork lard or vegetable oil, plus a little more if necessary
6 medium (about 3 ounces total) dried mulato chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
3 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) whole almonds—with or without skins
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) raisins
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon anise, preferably freshly ground (optional)
A scant 1/8 teaspoon cloves, preferably freshly ground
1 ounce (about 1/4 of a 3.3 ounce tablet) Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
1 slice firm white bread, darkly toasted and broken into several pieces
1/4 cup sugar (plus a little more if needed)
Salt
About 2 quarts chicken broth
12 good-size pieces of chicken—bone-in breast halves or leg-and-thigh pieces—trimmed of excess fat
1/3 cup sesame seeds

Procedure

1. Prepare the mole base: If your slow cooker has a removable cooking crock that can be placed directly on the heat, measure in the lard or oil and set it over medium heat. Otherwise, heat the lard or oil in a very large (7- to 8-quart) pot or Dutch oven. When hot, add the chiles, garlic, almonds and raisins. Stir slowly and continually until the chiles are thoroughly toasted (the interior of each piece will become lighter in color) and the almonds have taken on a creamy color and toasty aroma—about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (with their juice), spices, chocolate and bread. Cook until the tomato juices are reduced and quite thick, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water, the sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. When the liquid comes to a simmer, transfer the crock to the slow cooker (or scrape the mixture into your slow-cooker). Cook on low for 6 hours. After 6 hours most of the liquid will be reduced to a glaze. The mixture can hold for several hours on the slow cooker's "warm" setting.

2. Finish the mole: Scrape every bit of the mole base into a bowl, then scoop half of it into a blender jar. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, cover and blend until as smooth as possible—for most household blenders this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the slow-cooker's cooking crock and press the mole base through it. Repeat with the remainder of the mole base. Stir in 3 cups more chicken broth. Simmer in the slow-cooker for 2 hours or so on high. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a cream soup, stir in a little more of the broth. Taste and season with additional salt (usually about 1 teaspoon) and sugar (usually 2 to 3 tablespoons).

3. Grill the chicken: Light a gas grill, setting the temperature at medium on the sides, off in the center; or light a charcoal fire, letting the coals burn until they're covered with white ash and medium hot, then banking them to the sides. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces liberally with salt, then lay them, skin side up, in the center of the grill. Cover and cook until the chicken is done (160°F on an instant-read thermometer or a small knife inserted into the thickest part of the thigh draws clear—not rosy—juices), 35 to 45 minutes. With this method of chicken grilling, there's no need to turn the chicken, only to move pieces on the edge around if they are browning more quickly than those in the middle. The internal temperature of the grill should stay at about 325°F.

4. Serve: In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring nearly constantly, until lightly browned and aromatic, about 4 minutes.

Lay a piece of grilled chicken on each dinner plate. Pour a generous 1/2 cup of sauce on and around the chicken, then sprinkle with a generous shower of sesame seeds. Serve right away.

12 comments:

Katie said...

Oh ym goodness. This looks so good!!

Marvin said...

I wrap my fire alarm in foil;) Anyways, the mole looks great!

Andy said...

What a feast! It looks really yummy. I love mole but have never made it before.

SteamyKitchen said...

I've never made mole before and have only eaten it a handful of times - yours looks wonderful!

Julius said...

Hi Julie,

I don't know why they put smoke detectors near the kitchen... seems like the worst place to put it.

Very brave of you to do a mole. I cooked with chocolate once (a beef stew, recipe by David Rocco of La Dolce Vita on TV) and it was a failure. Waste of a lot of chocolate.

Christina said...

I would just like to say that I'm hungry again!

Shandy said...

WoW! Your step-by-step pictures are just beautiful! A person can almost smell the aroma through those pictures. . .and I am so impressed that you are in culinary classes. I would just love to be able to widen my cooking horizons! I already do on-line college and work full time so until I am done, no cooking classes for me. I will just have to live vicariously through your blog =D. Great blog, BTW,

Shandy (Pastry Heaven)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love Tex Mex food and your Mole looks absolutely gorgeous! It is a pity that most ingredients used in this cuisine are not easy to find here, in Switzerland..

Cheers,

Rosa

Julie said...

Katie: Thank you! I was so pleased with how it tasted--I'll definitely make it again soon!

Marvin: Dang, you've got smarts! Foil!!! Awesome!

Andy and Steamykitchen: Thanks--it was intimidating at first, since it's notorious for its long prep time, but the time goes quickly, and the tast is worth it. I recommend you try it!

Julius: It's crazy--there's another smoke detector in my room, just two feet away from this one! Give mole a try! If you like it when you have it from restaurants, you'll probably like it as much if not better from your own kitchen!

Christina: Thank you! Me, too! Haha! But I kinda always am ... *sigh*

Shandy: Thank you so much! I always wish I could take better pictures to portray better what's going on. My camera's just a simple, inexpensive little machine, though, and my condo doesn't get very good lighting, so I try my best. I love taking culinary classes at the college! They're so much cheaper than dedicated culinary schools, and you get a lot of the same education! I'm taking this semester off to let my finances recover after buying my condo, but I'll be back at it in the spring! A lot of kitchen stores like Sur La Table offer one-night classes, so maybe you could attend one if you have time. I've attended a few, and they're quite fun and informative! Best of luck with your online college courses!

Rosa: Oy, I guess it would be hard to find a lot of these ingredients there! I wonder if you could find good substitutions, though. Many different peppers work in mole, and you can use tomatoes if you don't have tomatillos. Regular cinnamon (cassia) would stand in for the canela, and I imagine any dark chocolate would work! Perhaps you could try an adapted version--it might work out to your liking. The important thing is slowly building the layers of flavors. =)

kellypea said...

You know you're looking at excellent food when you're not hungry and you begin to drool. I love Mexican food -- especially when it's authentic. That salsa and the carrot chips look so yummy! What a lot of hard work.

Julie said...

Kellypea, thank you! It didn't take nearly as much work as I'd thought it would! I guess that's mostly due to not having to grind everything by hand. I love my blender! The salsa and carrot chips were especially quick and easy, and I highly recommend both!

Paz said...

Yum! All this looks delicious. Worth the time spent preparing it. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Best,
Paz