Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ole' Mole

Last Sunday, while I was assisting, Fellow Traveler sat in the back of the church with R, a thirtysomething parishoner of ours who is recovering from a series of strokes; he is now permanently disabled, and he and his young family have been through a lot -- a lot -- in the past few months. R is Latino, and in the course of chit-chatting with him, FT found out that he likes chicken mole.

"Oh, I make that for my kids for the holidays," FT told him. R's eyes lit up.

"I love it," he said. "My mom makes good mole. I wish I had some." He told FT that when he was in the hospital one of his family members made it and brought it to him, and he enjoyed it so much."

"Well, why don't I make you some," offered FT.

So for the past week we've been planning to make mole. FT, who learned to cook Mexican from her Mexican ex-mother-in-law, bases her recipe on a couple of jars of prepared mole, amended with various extra ingredients to suit family tastes, so we figured we'd just go to the store and buy the boughten mole.

Except that there is no boughten mole within a 30-mile radius of Outer Podunk. Oops.

As the clock ticked away this evening, we decided that instead of making a half-hour desperation trip to the nearest purveyor of mole, we would be brave and make our own. So I looked up some recipes online. Some were easy but not terribly tasty-sounding. Some were so complex that they required a couple dozen ingredients and about a three-day prep time. We just had very basic Mexican cooking ingredients at home. Yikes.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So, with several different online recipes in mind, I just made mine up as I went along. And -- amazingly -- this tastes a great deal like FT's recipe. Here it is -- written for posterity as much for us as for you. We like it; we hope R does and hope you do.

Not-Very-Authentico Chicken Mole

2 chickens, cut up
chicken broth to cover
onion, garlic, salt, pepper

Place chicken in a large saucepan; cover with broth and add vegetables and seasonings. Simmer until tender. Meanwhile, make mole sauce:

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 TBS minced garlic (I used jarred)
2 TBS olive oil

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until onions become somewhat transparent. At this point add:

between 1/3 and 1/2 cup flour
Stir until vegetables are coated, and continue to saute until flour becomes just barely golden in color -- you may need to add oil. When flour just starts coloring, add:

3 TBS chili powder
1 TBS cumin
salt and black pepper

Stir until spices are incorporated into the roux. (Sauteeing spices tends to take away the "raw" flavor and grainy texture of some blends like chili powder and curry.)

Place chicken pieces in a crockpot, reserving broth in the saucepan. Stir floured onion mixture into the simmering broth until smooth. Add:

1 square unflavored baking chocolate
equivalent amount extra dark chocolate eating bar (I had a 71 percent cocoa Trader Joe's bar in the freezer and hacked a piece of it off for this experiment)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 TBS peanut butter (some of the mole recipes I saw had mixtures of almonds and sesame seeds in them -- if you have different nut butters at home you can probably mix and match here)
1/2 can minced Mexican tomatoes with jalapenos
maybe a half-tablespoon of sugar, or more

If all is going well, this mixture will thicken quickly. Simmer for maybe 10 minutes, until the flavors really start to meld, and then add to the chicken in the crockpot. Add a bit of water to the bottom of the crock to prevent sticking, then cook on Low overnight.

If you have some canned chipotle peppers one of them might taste really good in here, as might other south-of-the-border specialty peppers...but we just worked with what we had, and were very pleased with the results.

We just eat our mole in tortillas, but you can also eat it over rice or pasta.


toujoursdan said...

On your NYC trip, you should make a trip to Alma Restaurant in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Their cuisine is Santa Fe and they have the BEST mole enchiladas you have ever tasted (as well as a breathtaking view of lower Manhattan to enjoy them with).

zorra said...

Wow! You did great.

No Bueno or Dona Maria? I couldn't cope. I'm too lazy to do what y'all did.

There is a farmer's market here in Houston where you can buy seven or eight different types of mole, labeled by region of origin (Oaxaca, etc.). toujoursdan's comment reminds me of how much I love duck in red mole....