Raise your hand if you’re getting sick of Thanksgiving leftovers. Me too! So I want to do a post that has nothing to do with an American Thanksgiving. It’s about Mexican food, glorious, wonderful Mexican food! Hands down, my favorite ethnic cuisine.
Mole (pronounced mow-lay) Poblano is Mexico’s national dish. It is not called poblano because it contains poblano chiles; in fact it does not. It’s called poblano because the dish originates in the city of Puebla, and the people of Puebla are known as Poblanos. The city of Oaxaca also lays claim to mole; in fact, that city boasts seven different types of color-coded mole, but when someone casually refers to mole, it’s assumed they are talking about Mole Poblano, by far the most popular mole dish. I hope to make and blog all seven of the moles from Oaxaca, but one step at a time, Julie.
Mole is traditionally a very complicated and complex dish that takes several people several days to make. It usually contains up to 40(!) ingredients and they are all ground and mixed by hand. Chefs and cooks have successfully simplified this process over the many years. You can get the same amazing flavors with far fewer ingredients and a blender. As long as you have the main components (chiles, spices, nuts and thickeners, sour agent, sweet agent, and chocolate) you can simplify and demystify mole and enjoy it in your own home.
Mole Poblano has a curious and not-completely-agreed-upon history, but most likely it was invented by nuns in Puebla back in pre-colonial days. They were hosting the archbishop and didn’t know what to serve him, so they prayed and supposedly an angel sent them the inspiration to grind together the scraps of food they had lying around. So they did and now we have mole. They killed an unlucky turkey that happened to be wandering around their convent and boiled him as a vehicle for the sauce, and now Mole Poblano is traditionally served over turkey. I used chicken thighs for this dish, but it’s certainly delicious over turkey. Chicken breasts would work too, whatever you’re feeling that day.
This dish is one of the best things Mexico has to offer. I can’t find words to adequately describe its complex flavor, but believe me when I say it really is amazing.
Source: Sauces Rubs and Marinades, by Steven Raichlen
2 ancho chiles
2 cascabel chiles
2 pasilla chiles
2 guajillo chiles
2 dried chipotle chiles
4 ripe plum tomatoes
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 corn tortilla
3 tbs slivered almonds
3 tbs sesame seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 piece (1 inch) cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 tsp aniseed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbs golden raisins or dried currants
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup lard or olive oil
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tsp honey
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded or sliced
Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Roast the chiles until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter to cool slightly. Add them to a small stockpot and cover them with water. Put on a burner over medium-high heat and let them come up to a boil. When you have a rolling boil, cover the pot, shut off the heat and let them sit for at least 20 minutes, up to 30 minutes.
Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic until browned and blistered on all sides. The garlic will take 4 to 6 minutes, the tomatoes and onion take 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Toast the tortilla until crisp and browned, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside to cool. Toast the almonds, shaking the pan to ensure even browning, until toasted and fragrant, no more than 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Toast and cool the sesame seeds the same way as the almonds.
Now add the peppercorns, coriander, cinnamon stick, and cloves to the pan and toast until fragrant and toasted, 2 minutes. Let cool.
Transfer the toasted peppercorns, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves, plus the aniseed to a spice mill and grind to a fine powder.
Place the tomatoes in a blender. Add the onion, garlic, soaked chiles, corn tortilla, almonds, sesame seeds, ground spices, cilantro and raisins or currants. Work in several batches if needed. Puree to a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the blender bowl with a rubber spatula several times. If the mixture is too dry (it probably will be) add a little of the soaking liquid from the chiles.
Heat the lard in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the mixture from the blender and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the broth, chocolate, honey, vinegar, and salt. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thick and richly flavored, another 10 minutes. The mole should be thick but pourable, so add more chicken stock as needed.
Fold the shredded chicken into the mole sauce and let it heat through. Serve over rice, in warmed corn tortillas, or as is in a bowl. Garnish with cilantro if desired.
Note: this make 4 cups of mole, enough to serve up to 8 people. It’s easy to halve the recipe; but leftovers work beautifully, so keep that in mind.