For some time I have been promising my friend Deena (of tamale lady fame) to make mole for her. I got to be a self-proclaimed expert at it when I was doing a lot of consulting – advising large companies on how to introduce new products into an ever-expanding marketplace. I will admit that I’m a bit lazy these days and don’t use the mortar and pestle like I should, so mole making is not quite as time consuming as it once was. Steve, my wonderful photographing husband, loves nothing better than the time he spends in Oaxaca, Mexico, an area known for its great moles so he has come to really appreciate the authentic dish. A long story to say I spent the day making mole in preparation for a Mexican celebration of chicken in mole sauce, pinto beans, rice, and guacamole for Deena. We’ll probably down some cerveza or cerveza preparada (tomato juice, beer, and hot sauce mix) or margaritas to toast the many wonderful cooks south of our borders.
Here’s my recipe for Mole Negro Oaxaqueño (Chicken in Mole Sauce, Oaxaca-Style). Tradition says cook the chicken first and then proceed with the recipe, but I always have plenty of chicken stock in the freezer so I use that to prepare the sauce. I make the sauce and when I want to serve it I sear the chicken pieces (I usually cut up 2 whole chickens, but you could use any parts you like – if you use skinless, boneless breasts, don’t overcook), add them to the sauce, and cook for about 25 minutes just before serving. You can garnish with toasted sesame seeds or chopped cilantro if you like. Tradition also says “use lard” but I opt for the healthier olive oil
2 ounces guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
4 pasilla chiles, seeds and stems removed
4 ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
5 tablespoons olive oil
Two ½-inch thick slices French or Italian bread
1½ cups canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles with juice
1 cup chopped onion
¼ cup diced dried apricots
¼ cup black raisins
¼ cup unsalted peanuts
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups chicken stock or canned nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
Salt to taste
Break the chiles into pieces and place in a small, heatproof bowl. Cover with very hot water and set aside to soak for 1 hour or until very soft.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the bread and fry for about 4 minutes or until the bread is turning brown and the olive oil has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Drain the chiles, separately reserving the soaking water.
Combine the chiles with the tomatoes, onion, apricots, raisins, peanuts, almonds, cilantro, garlic, sesame seeds, pepper, thyme, oregano, cloves, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the reserved bread pieces and toss to blend.
Working in batches, puree the mixture in a high-speed blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade, adding the reserved soaking water as needed to make a very thick paste-like puree.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the paste and fry, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until the paste has taken on some color.
Scrape the paste into a large saucepan. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add the chocolate and continue to stir until the chocolate has melted into the sauce.
Season with salt to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until the flavors have blended nicely. (You can make the sauce up to this point; then cool, place in a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to 3 months).
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