I had planned to “drop this recipe” before Cinco de Mayo. But as the saying goes, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” and life, happened.
None the less, you can enjoy this recipe year round and I will tell you this, one of the easiest ways to amp up your culinary skills is to get really, really good at perfecting your sauce game. This is what sets the chefs apart from home cooks, even if you are new to cooking, or just want to make food that taste like it came from a five-star restaurant, having a few sauces in your repertoire is only going enhance what you make in the kitchen!
Moles in Mexico vary from region to region, and there is even some debate as to where moles originated, as some say it originated in the city of Oaxaca, while others say it came from Puebla, I lean towards Oaxaca because they are known for their chocolate, but each region has their versions so who can say! None the less, the basis for the moles are pretty much the same, in terms of what adds to the depth of flavor and the complexity. I liken it to the way pasta sauces are made and created from region to region in Italy. Some use carrots, and celery along with garlic and onions, other regions cook hardboiled eggs in the sauce, however, they all use aromatics, and tomatoes to accomplish the marinara sauce. The basis for most moles begin with a mix of chili peppers, nuts, and chocolate for depth of flavor and a distinctive profile unlike any other sauce in Mexican cooking. Not that other sauces are not distinctive, it is that they don’t have, in my opinion, the same complexity as a mole. Yes a good enchilada sauce is spicy and flavorful, but the rounded out flavors of a an hour-long simmer does not produce the same punch.
Now there are some recipes that pretend to be a mole. I have even had a few of them, masquerading at Mexican restaurants as an authentic mole, and the way you can tell that you have stumbled upon one that is not quite a mole, is that you do not get that distinct nutty and rich chocolate punch from them, further, not all moles are made with dark chocolate some of them are lovely, and made with white chocolate. Another thing I have found, is with some sub par moles, they tend may be overtly spicy to mask what they are lacking in flavor and not being quite a mole.
What I love about this Mexican Inspired Chicken Mole is that you can do the mole one day, then do the chicken the next, or you can do it in the same day, and there is no difference in the outcome. Yes, it is a labor of love, but well worth the time to create such an amazing meal, that will surely have you being the envy of all of your friends when you change things up and dine al fresco with them.
I hope you give this a try, it is nothing to be intimidated by.
An Ancho chile pepper is a dried Poblano shown here in both states. Roasting gives them a nice smokey flavor. They bring a little bit of heat but not overpowering by any means. We are also using a form the Mirasol chile, which dried is known as a Guajillo chile pepper, which has a medium bite but certainly no overtly spicy.
Here are what the Guajillo peppers look like dry, they are hiding under the Ancho chiles, they are the long red peppers. After toasting them lightly, in a hot skillet, place in a bowl and fill with boiling water to reconstitute for at least 30 minutes, along with the Anchos. Remember to reserve some of the liquid for pulsing the chiles.
I am getting the Poblano peppers ready for the broiler. We are only using one in this recipe but the others will be used in my Cheesy Chiles Rellenos. Recipe to follow. To roast, set oven to broil, line a broiler pan with foil, then lightly rub the peppers with canola oil or avocado oil. I used avocado here, it is my new go to oil. Broil for about three or four minutes on high per side, turning over to evenly char.
This is the char that you are looking for.
Immediately place the peppers into a plastic zipper bag, and seal for at least 15 minutes or until you are able to handle the peppers and can easily peel the skin. If your skin is sensitive to the peppers like mine can be, use kitchen grade gloves to do this. Remember not to rub your eyes or touch your face until you washed your hands after working with anything hot like these chiles, as you will curse the day you were born if you accidentally forget and rub your eyes as I have done more times than I would like to admit!
With the skin removed, now you begin to remove the stem, seeds and membrane. Set pepper aside in blender or food processor to wait for their friends to come back to life in the boiling hot liquid.
This is some cast of characters let me tell you. Note: I could not find Oaxaca chocolate, or Mexican chocolate of any kind where I usually purchase it, could be due to the fact that it was right before Cinco de Mayo, so like the good Girl Scout that I am, I improvised and used half of the chocolate you see here which is a good quality dark baking chocolate. I just measured and dumped on the board for this, as it is much easier when you are using this many ingredients, and they all fall in line, as they should! If only my teens were this easy….kididng! Mostly!
Time to pulse some chiles and make a happy marriage of yummy goodness. Add in all of the reconstituted chiles, about three ounces of reserved liquid, and 1/4 cup of chicken broth and whiz them good. Make a nice puree!!
To a hot skillet, add in the almonds, walnuts, and sesame seeds with some vegetable shortening. Toast about three minutes to bring out the nutty goodness. Drain with slotted spoon or spider, and transfer to a blender or food processor. Next add in the spices, the coriander seeds, the cumin seeds, the anise, along with the cinnamon stick, and toast them for about minute or two to bring out the fragrance of them. Remove them in the same fashion, to the blender with the nuts, drain the raisins and add them to the skillet and allow them to plump in the hot skillet about a minute or two, add them to the blender as well.
Next add the garlic and onion slices and allow them to caramelize in the oil, adding more oil as needed, about ten minutes. Stirring frequently to prevent burning. When done, transfer to the blender with all the other friends, and 1 cup of chicken stock, and pulse until smooth.
At this point you can add in the seasoned chicken thighs, you are only getting a light sear on them about five minutes aside. You can also just season and poach in the mole as many authentic Mexican recipes do, I prefer a little crust for extra flavor. Set aside on a plate, and drain some of the excess oil, not all, you want the flavor.
To the same skillet, add in more vegetable shortening as needed, and add in first the mole mixture which is your nuts, seeds, and spices. Then add in the chile puree, add in the chocolate, and stir, along with the remaining broth, corn meal, and sugar. When making moles, they can be bitter depending on the type of chocolate, and the nuts and spices, to compensate for this you add the sugar, I do this with my Italian gravy to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. I added in total 2 tbsp. of sugar throughout the cooking. Adjust accordingly to your tastes. Season with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Let simmer for one hour, mixing occasionally and pouring sauce over top of chicken as it simmers.
This is before the chicken went back in at the beginning. You will begin to see a vast transformation from start to finish.
I removed the chicken so you can get an idea of what the mole looks like after one hour. Dark, lovely and so flavorful it is a party in your mouth I swear.
There you see what the mole looks like plated. Served it with some Mexican rice and you have the perfect Mexican Inspired Chicken Mole. I just love this plate. It reminds me of Mexican art, and it has a sweet little butterfly!! xo
Mexican Inspired Chicken Mole
A Mexican classic that is full of flavor, intense and bold that is sure to wow any lover of authentic Mexican food!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- Five large chicken thighs
- 32 oz. container of chicken broth, 1 1 /4 cup of chicken broth divided, 1 cup for the mole ingredients 1/4 cup for the chili pepper paste, the rest for the final cooking of the mole
- some reserved liquid from the peppers about three ounces
- 1 roasted poblano pepper
- 3 Ancho Chili peppers (dried)
- 4 Chile Guajillo peppers (dried)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 oz. of Oaxaca chocolate, any Mexican chocolate or unsweetened dark baking chocolate
- 1/4 cup of sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup of sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup of walnuts
- 1/3 cup of raisins (plump them up in a tiny bit of boiling water for a few minutes x drain the water from them by squeezing them)
- 3/4 tsp. of cumin seeds
- 3/4 tsp. of coriander seeds
- 3/4 tsp. of anise seeds
- 1 tsp. of all spice
- 1 tbsp. of corn meal or one torn corn tortilla toasted
- 1 1/2 -2 tbsp. of sugar as needed if mole is bitter
- Kosher salt, cracked black pepper to taste
- lime wedges (optional)
- Cilantro for garnish if desired
- boiling water to re-hydrate the peppers
For the Chili Pepper Paste
- To roast the Poblano pepper, set the broiler to high, line a broiler pan with foil, and lightly oil the pepper, place under broiler and let pepper char on both sides turning as needed, about three minutes per side. Remove from broiler and immediately place in a plastic zipper bag. Seal and let sit for about ten minutes or until you are able to handle the pepper. Remove from bag and you will be able to remove the charred skin of the pepper. If you are sensitive to hot peppers, wear kitchen grade gloves and do not touch you eyes or rub your face until you wash your hands! Remove the seeds and membrane and place aside to be pulsed with the reconstituted peppers.
- In a large skillet, on medium high, toast the Ancho and Guajillo peppers. Just a minute per side. Remove them from the skillet and place them in a bowl with boiling water to cover, put a plate on top to weigh them down, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
For the Mole
- In the same skillet that you toasted the peppers add some vegetable shortening, lard, or canola oil. You will want to follow in this order, for the best flavor and results, take all of your nuts and begin to lightly toast them in the hot oil. About three or four minutes. Remove them with a spider to a blender or food processor.
- Add the seeds, and cinnamon stick to the oil let get fragrant, about a minute or two, then remove and transfer to blender or food processor. Add in raisins and let plump up about a minute, transfer raisins to blender. Next add in the garlic and sliced onion and let get golden. About 10 minutes or so. Stirring frequently to avoid burning. When they are caramelized, transfer them to the blender or food processor.
- Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
- Clean out skillet with a paper towel, add more vegetable shortening, season the chicken thighs with salt, cracked black pepper, chili powder, and cumin, front and back, cook chicken on high just to caramelize skin, about five minutes per side, chicken will simmer in the mole to finish cooking. Remove chicken to a plate adding more oil if needed, add in the mole puree. Add peppers to the same processor or blender, with 1/4 cup of chicken stock and some of the reserved liquid from the peppers. Pulse until smooth. Add to the same skillet with the mole puree, add in the chocolate, sugar, and remainder of the chicken broth, and add back in the chicken, simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting seasoning as need. Serve immediately with Mexican Rice, and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro if desired. Squeeze lime wedges over the top and devour!
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