Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicken Mole - Mexican Comfort Food

I am having one of those insatiable craving for Mexican food lately. Blame it on the wet and cold weather here in New England. Mexican food has been on my mind a lot...and I mean a lot! I have always love chicken mole and will get them whenever we go out to a Mexican restaurant. Why I have never attempt to make this at home is beyond me? After all, we doesn't love comfort food in weather like this. Speaking of which, does anyone know when summer is coming????

The interesting thing about Mexican food and myself is that I have never liked Mexican food or the American version of Mexican food, at least. During my college days, my friends will ask me to go to the local Mexican food chain near our school. I tried it once and absolutely detest it. It was greasy and salty. That was all I could taste. It wasn't until one of my friend who was originally from Oaxaca in Mexico offered me his mother's homemade tamale with chicken mole that I fell head over heels in love with Mexican food. 

The easiest way to describe the mole sauce is a rich, thick concoction with a wonderful blend of dried peppers and spices. It is somewhat akin to how my grandma will make her curries minus the addition of coconut milk. The addition of chocolate in the mole sauce gives it a rich dark flavor. It doesn't taste like eating chocolate at all, if you are wondering. The chicken mole comes out all nice, warm and comforting in a cold rainy day. Bliss!

Mexican Chicken Mole
(Recipe adapted from Food Network and my own twist)
1 chicken, about 4lbs cut into 8 pieces
1 medium onion, quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig thyme
Cilantro stems
10 black peppercorns

Mole Sauce
4 dried ancho chillies
4 dried mulato chillies
4 pasilla chillies
1 quart chicken stock
2 Tbsp sesame seed, toasted
2 Tbsp unsalted peanuts, toasted

1/2 ripe banana
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cinnamon steak, broken into pieces
2 whole cloves
3 whole black peppercorn
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces
1 slice white bread, toasted till dark, torn into pieces
2 oz Mexican chocolate or unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar

 Step 1: In a large pot, add the chicken, onions, garlic, thyme, oregano, cilantro stems and black peppercorns. Cover chicken with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes till chicken is cooked through.

Step 2: Dish out chicken into a bowl. Let cool. Meanwhile, strain chicken stock through a fine strainer and set chicken stock aside.

Step 3: Clean the dried peppers. Remove the seeds and stems. In a hot dry pan, roast the chili peppers till they turn deep brown in color.

Step 4: Add in the hot chicken stock to the peppers and let soaked for 20 minutes to rehydrate peppers.

Step 5: Meanwhile, in a hot dry pan, roast the peanuts, sesame seeds, spices, tortilla pieces and bread. Set aside. Add in a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Saute the onion and garlic. Set aside.

Step 6: When peppers are fully re-hydrated, add the peppers with a few tablespoon of the soaking liquid in a food processor. Pulverize till it forms a paste. Add more liquid if necessary.

Step 7: Add in the onion, garlic, spices, banana, peanuts and sesame seeds. Pulverize till smooth. Add in more liquid if necessary.

Step 8: Add in the thickening agents; the toasted tortilla pieces and bread. Add more stock to the food processor and pulverize till sauce is smooth.

Step 9: In a pot, heat the remaining 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Pour sauce through a fine strainer into the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add in 2 cups of chicken stock, the chocolate, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil.

Step 10: Once sauce begins to boil, add all the chicken into the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes till sauce thickens and chicken is well coated with the mole sauce. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning. Add more salt and/or sugar if necessary.

Serve chicken mole with a side of Mexican rice and corn tortilla, if desired.

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