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Chicken Mole Poblano

May 23, 2008

Who would think that a seemingly innocent sauce could leave behind such destruction and havoc? That little measuring cup of mole you see above caused the biggest mess I think my kitchen has ever seen, and left me in its wake, exhausted and covered head to foot in sauce. I gave almost three hours of my evening over to making chicken mole (and cleaning up after it), but in the end, it was totally worth it. No, it didn’t turn out exactly as I expected, but then, I didn’t even really know what to expect, having had mole only once in my life before.

It took me awhile to figure out why none of the recipes I found for mole poblano contained poblano chiles. They generally all use chipotles, anchos, pasillas, anaheims. No poblanos. Then I discovered that poblano is also the name of someone who lives in Puebla, Mexico, the region where mole was pretty much invented. Aha. Well, I’m not sure my mole is in any way Puebla-style. I used the chilis I could find: guajillos, cascabels, chipotles, and a mild, light green pepper which, frankly, I can’t identify and was only labeled “chili” at the supermarket. You gotta love grocery shopping in New England.

I think my choice of chilis might be the reason my mole turned out much lighter in color than I expected. But while it might not have had that brick-reddish-brown hue one normally imagines when thinking of mole, the flavor was spot on: just the right amount of heat, rich from the chocolate and nutty from the almonds and sesame seeds. Freaking delicious, and the extra great part? I have enough in the freezer to make this all over again. Including enough extra chicken, because, wow: One large cut-up chicken is really a lot of chicken.

The recipe is from Tyler Florence, found on the Food Network website. Perhaps I should have looked for something more “authentic,” but everything else I saw called for things that, again, I have a pretty hard time finding in New England: epazote? Oh sure, the Roche is going to carry that, when it’s difficult enough finding fresh cilantro half the time. Avocado leaves? Canella powder? Ha! In Boston, you make do with what you have, and what I have is oregano, thyme, and whatever dried chilis I can manage to get my hands on. (Alright, I probably could have made a trip to a spice shop or Mexican grocery, but I am lazy about special trips. It is more my fault than Boston’s. Ok, I said it. Sigh.)

If you decide to make this amazing, impressive, and delectable dinner, make sure you have a LOT of time, or do it in phases. You could make the mole one night and cook the chicken in the sauce the next. I had to take a break after the mole-making to clean the kitchen (and myself), and have a cigarette and a glass of wine, because I was already kind of overwhelmed. But I’m on vacation and there really isn’t anything I enjoy more than spending multiple hours in the kitchen. Sad, but true. I’ve been domesticated.

So are you ready? Do you want to tackle a cooking project that will have everything in the vicinity splattered with spicy sauce? Do you want to dedicate a few hours of your evening to dinner? It will take courage, but if you think you have the…uh…cojones (heh heh), read on

Mole poblano

(Mole poblano is traditionally served not with chicken but with turkey, and is called mole de guajolote. Mole is pretty versatile. You could even buck tradition entirely and do something crazy with tofu, I bet.)

  • 2 dried guajillo chilis
  • a small handful of dried cascabel chilis
  • 1/4 c. raisins (the original recipe calls for golden raisins, but I didn’t have them)
  • 1/4 c. whole almonds
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme (strip the leaves and discard the stems)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped (I don’t think I used a serrano pepper. I don’t know what I used.)
  • 1 chipotle pepper with a bit of the sauce, chopped
  • 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used the last bar of chocolate from Amano.)

Tear the guajillo chilis into pieces, and toast them with the cascabel chilis in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast them for about two minutes, until you can smell a wonderful toasty spicy smell and they change color just slightly. Then transfer them to a bowl with the raisins, and cover them with hot water. Let them sit and soak for about half an hour.

While they soak, add the almonds, sesame seeds, cinnamon stick, oregano, and thyme, with a bit of pepper, to the same skillet. Toast them for another two minutes or so. This will also smell wonderful and toasty and kind of unusual. And the sesame seeds will pop a bit and try to burn: Keep your eye on them and remove them from the skillet before they brown. Grind it all up in a spice grinder and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmery, add the onions, garlic, fresh pepper, and chipotle. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and translucent, then add the tomatoes. Continue to cook and stir it around occasionally until everything is soft and kind of mushy looking, probably about 15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the soaking chilis and raisins, a bit of the chili soaking water, the chopped chocolate, and the ground up herbs and nuts. This is where things got messy for me. If you have a blender, throw the whole shebang in there and carefully blend it (blending hot things can be tricky) until it’s smooth. I don’t have a proper blender, so I used my immersion blender. Mole splattered everywhere: my hair, my shoes, the refrigerator, the dishes on the open shelves. Thankfully my new camera was spared. I eventually had to transfer it all to a smaller pot that was less shallow, and that helped a lot with the splattering, so that’s something to keep in mind. Whatever blending method you use, you want to blend away until its as smooth as you can get it. Add more chili water if you need to (I used it all).

Now you have mole! This makes four cups, and you only need two for the chicken mole. You can freeze the other half for future use. I’m already thinking of chicken mole enchiladas. Crazy talk, I know! Delicious crazy talk! But for now, back to the matter at hand: chicken mole.

Chicken Mole Poblano

This part is actually pretty easy and only resulted in minimal mess, when the mole hit the hot chicken oil and once again splattered all over my kitchen. That is some jumpy stuff, that mole.

Rinse off the chicken, and perhaps remove a bit of the skin, if you’re not feeling already over-taxed. I left the skin on. I didn’t even trim it. And you know, the chicken was not very photogenic when all was said and done. Sure, it tasted great, but what really matters here? The pictures, of course! I don’t know, chicken skin kind of grosses me out and I don’t know why I didn’t remember that and trim it off, but live and learn, right?

Squeeze the juice of the lemon all over the chicken pieces, and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot. You might have to brown the chicken in batches, depending on the size of your pot. When the oil is nice and hot, just add the chicken pieces in and let them cook for about three or four minutes on each side, just long enough to get them nice and brown. Remove them to a clean plate and cook the next batch. Remove those to the plate, and add the mole sauce to the oily pot. Watch out for splatters. Cook the mole for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, and nestle the chicken pieces back into the sauce. Cover the pot and cook, simmering, until the chicken is cooked through, probably about 25 minutes.

I decided I needed vegetables,too, so about half way through the cooking time I added a few sliced up carrots, and a few minutes later, some chopped broccoli. Delicious. And vitamin-y! They were cooked perfectly, not too mushy and a little spicy from the sauce.

I also made simple Spanish/Mexican-style rice: Just bring 2 cups of chicken stock, a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, a few shakes of cumin, and some salt and pepper to a boil. Add a cup of rice, lower the heat, cover the pan, and let it all sit for about half an hour. Once the rice is cooked, I like to throw in half a cup or so of Ro-tel, because I love the Ro-tel.

This makes enough food to feed about twenty-five people. Ok, it doesn’t actually make that much. But it makes a freaking LOT! I actually left out one of the chicken breasts and the wings (they are in the freezer, waiting for enchiladas) because it was just too darn much food. I feel like I’ll be eating this stuff until kingdom comes, or at least until next week, when I leave for New York and Barcelona.

Oh yeah, you heard that right. New York, then Barcelona, back to back. My cousin is graduating and my mom and my dad’s sisters are flying out for the occasion. I’m taking the train down to New York to hang out there for four days, and then as soon as I get back, Mr. X and I are flying to Barcelona to hang with The Crystal (WHEEOWWW!) for almost two weeks. I have never been to Europe, I’ve almost never been out of the country (only a 24 hour trip to Montreal a few years ago), and I haven’t seen The Crystal since last August. I am so excited I can hardly sit still every time I think of it.

There will not be any blogging while I’m gone, but I’m sure I’ll have a lot to share when I return: The Boqueria alone will probably merit some serious gushing. In the meantime, set aside a few hours and make your self some Chicken Mole Poblano. The time, effort, and cleaning products required will be well worth it.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    May 23, 2008 11:36 am

    Do you need me to mail you some dried chilis?

  2. May 23, 2008 12:55 pm

    Ooh, yes. Yes, you do.

  3. May 24, 2008 2:50 am

    All dishes look very delicious! I am interested in the food culture of your country. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan

  4. crystalbrooke permalink
    May 24, 2008 6:08 am

    Holy CRAP that looks tasty. One of the things that’s most exciting about my summer, aside from NY’s proximity to Boston!, is that I’ll be able to eat Mexican food, every day if I want (’tis woefully absent here in BCN). But this mole looks seriously amazing. How do you like my chances of talking you into re-creating this masterpiece some weekend when I come up?

  5. Mom permalink
    May 24, 2008 1:16 pm

    I can’t help thinking that there needs to be a restaurant that serves up Krier food. We need an investor.

  6. Maggie permalink
    May 26, 2008 12:34 pm

    I second that on the Krier restaurant idea, or at least have some of that fine Krier food sent my way! I’ll pay :)

  7. May 28, 2008 2:22 am

    HI-LO, HI-LO, HI-LO. Plug your nose and get the chilis you need- cheap.

    Looks like a decent recipe though, even from Tyler Florence. (btw. Canella = Cinnamon, and also my last dog’s name).


  8. May 28, 2008 7:03 am

    I always forget about the Hi-Lo. I think I conditioned myself to forget about the Hi-Lo. But I promise I will check it out.

    I figured out the canella thing after I cooked this (isn’t that always the way?), and that is an excellent name for a dog.

  9. Dave permalink
    August 7, 2008 4:26 pm

    Actually the reason it’s called poblano is because the ancho chilis are dried poblano chilis.

  10. Luis permalink
    August 10, 2008 1:03 am

    As Dave points out, chile ancho is actually the dried form of the fresh chile poblano. Most Mexican chiles are called by different names when fresh and dry.

    Anyway, mole poblano is called that because it’s from Puebla, and it doesn’t have chile poblano in it because it’s made with dried chiles.


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