Paging all Abuelitas: Chicken with Mole Negro

I’m noticing a worrying pattern in my cooking (beyond the fact that right now, I appear to be dishing up All Epic Fail, All the Time): I am becoming distressingly addicted to extremely complicated recipes. This is a truth that was driven home to me the other day by my friend J, who in telling me about a casserole he was about to make happened to mention that he knew better than to tangle with making anything that I might bring to a picnic. Hard words. But true, particularly so now that my schedule has changed and I suddenly have the time to spend four hours on a Tuesday making a sauce. I choose to think of it as my own personal take on Recession Cooking.

Chicken Mole

My latest labor is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time: a Mole Negro. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, mole negro is an aromatic, complex mexican sauce, flavored with chilis and chocolate. From what I can gather, it’s the mexican equivalent to the za’ataar blend, in that no two recipes are alike, and people guard their formulas viciously. This is both good and bad for the uninitiated cook. On the one hand, it allows for a certain amount of freedom in developing a recipe; on the other hand I don’t have a goddamn clue what I’m doing, and none of the roadmaps seem to agree. However, I thrive on that kind of chaos (and, hey, I had a half pound of unsweetened chocolate in my cupboard that needed attention STAT), so I rolled up my sleeves, reconstituted my chilis, and dove right in. Heedlessly, as I am wont to do.

The result?

Mole Negro

Well, I wouldn’t call it Epic Fail, not exactly. It was tasty, but curiously inert. Whether this meant it needed more salt, or a hit of citrus, I have yet to determine. Fortunately, I have about a gallon of it still rocking out in my fridge–turns out that one roast chicken only needs about a cup of this stuff to hit the right texture–and so I suspect we’ll be in for a lot of experiments in mole in the upcoming weeks.

I will keep you posted on what I determine.

Mole Negro
(This recipe includes revisions to make it a little more alive)

4 medium-sized Ancho chiles
4 medium-sized Mulatto chiles
2 Pasilla chiles

5-6 medium-sized tomatillos, husks removed

4 medium tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
2 small onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (no shells)
1/3 c peanuts

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

salt
pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp oregano (please remember these are all estimates; I honestly just throw things in until they taste right, and encourage you to do the same)

juice of 1 lime (this is a conjecture, but I bet it’ll work!)
chicken stock

  1. Stem, seed, and remove the membranes of your chiles. Place them in a bowl and cover with hot water; let them rehumidify for a half hour or so.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375. Chop your tomatillos in half, and roast them until they are slightly wilted, about twenty minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside–do not turn the oven off.
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until slightly translucent; add the tomatoes and garlic. Saute for 4-5 more minutes, and then add the tomatillos. Reduce heat and stir frequently.
  4. Remove your chiles from their bath; roughly chop them and add them to the pot.
  5. Meanwhile, place your sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet; bake them until they are toasty and aromatic.
  6. Add the nuts to the tomato/tomatillo/chile mixture
  7. Add the chocolate, stirring to combine. Add the cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and oregano.
  8. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  9. Using a blender (or, my personal favorite, the stick blender) puree the bejeezus out of the concoction until it is smooth and velvety. Add the lime juice, and simmer for another hour. Add chicken stock if it starts to look too dry.
  10. Toss it with a bunch of precooked chicken (I roasted up a bird to go with this), and enjoy with a sprinkling of queso fresco and some nice tortillas.
In chicken, chocolate, mexican, sauce

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