Monday, January 27, 2014

Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken Thighs

Mole is an acquired taste, especially a dark mole like this one, which tends to be more spicy and intense than a red or green version.   When I first tried mole, I hated it.  But, I eat a vast amount of Mexican food, and am pretty much obsessed with Mexican regional cuisine... so I never gave up on it completely.

Now that I've developed a taste for mole, I respect it.  So much so that I was teaching mole classes over the summer!  The word really just means sauce, and there are literally thousands of different preparations.  It is usually rich, spicy and complex, full of seemingly out of place ingredients that pair surprising well together.

This recipe is no exception, so don't freak out when you read the list of ingredients!  I've made this particular mole negro about 20 times and it is one of my favorite recipes.  It isn't difficult to make, just a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort.

Yield: 8-10 servings

2 1/2 quarts water
4 cups chicken stock
3-4 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
2 onions, quartered
6 peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 poblano peppers
4 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 plantains, sliced
1/8 cup golden raisins
2 slices bread, toasted
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup rum
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon oregano
2 peppercorns
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes:

Additional sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped onions

Brown the sesame seeds in an ungreased skillet. Transfer the seeds to a blender or food processor and add the dried guajillo chiles, poblanos, and tomatoes. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to speed the blending. Blend together well, then strain through a sieve or cheesecloth. Discard any thick residue that remains. Transfer the blended ingredients to a large pot.

In the same skillet, divide the oil and cook in several batches the nuts, peppercorns, and seeds, onions, garlic, plantains, raisins, and bread. The onions, garlic and nuts should be lightly browned and the plantains should be soft. The raisins should brown slightly.

As the ingredients are cooked, transfer them to the blender and puree, adding stock if necessary, then straining and adding to the pot. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been cooked, strained and added to the pot, adding the peanut butter into one of the last blender mixes. Add any remaining chicken stock, rum, cocoa powder, seasoning and bay leaves to the pot and bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Reduce the heat, add the chicken, and let the mixture simmer on medium for 60-90 minutes, or until the chicken is soft and falling off the bone.

At this point, taste the sauce.  If it is too bitter or not quite flavorful enough, you can add either vinegar or sugar, or both, to balance the taste.   Add very lightly, then taste, so as not to ruin the sauce.  Lime juice is another option to intensify the flavor.  If the sauce is too spicy, adding more water or stock can work, or you can serve it with sour cream to cut the heat.  Either way, give it one more final taste and season with salt, if necessary, before serving.

Serve warm, with rice and or beans, and garnished with cilantro, lime wedges, onions and/or sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!

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