Chicken Mole is one of the most popular recipes in our filebox. It was one of the first recipes I ever posted in this blog (way back in December 2006), but it was buried at the end of my Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking post. Although that turned out to be one of the most heavily viewed posts in this blog, the recipe itself was almost an afterthought, lost at the bottom of the page.
So today I'm going to expand on my mole sauce recipe by giving it its own standalone post, and by adding several new photographs that will show, in detail, all of the process steps in making the recipe. Hopefully this will assist you in mastering this exotic and surprisingly easy to make dish.
Let me start with two brief points of trivia: 1) It's pronounced "MOH-lay" and 2) The secret ingredient is of course chocolate. I've never known anybody to figure it out just from tasting the sauce, unless they already knew what a mole sauce was.
This recipe is one of the heavy rotation mainstays in our kitchen. It can be made vegetarian-style with only minor adjustments. It is easily scaleable (I’ve cooked it for 27 people at a family reunion), freezable and reheatable, and it can be made from start to finish in about half an hour. I hope that you find this dish as fun to cook and eat as we do.
(Modified beyond recognition from an old issue of Bon Appetit Magazine)
2 Tablespoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A few shakes of cayenne pepper if desired
1 1/2 lbs chicken (prefer chicken breasts or boneless thighs, cut into chunks or strips)
Cayenne pepper and coarse ground black pepper for seasoning
4 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
1.5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate
1) Season raw chicken with cayenne pepper and coarse ground black pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive on high heat in a large, deep (4 quart) nonstick pan. Add chicken and sear at high heat until just done (do not overcook!). Set chicken aside.
2) Reduce heat to medium-high and add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to pan. Shake spice mix into the olive oil and stir with a plastic spatula. Add more oil (if needed) until all of the spice mix is moistened in the oil.
Heat spices until they are blackened and smoking, about 6-7 minutes or more (be sure to have your overhead fan on for this part!).
3) Lower heat to low and add unsweetened chocolate. As the chocolate is melting, stir it into the blackened spices with a spatula. When the chocolate is fully melted, add in the stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked chicken into the sauce and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Serve over white rice. Serves 5-6.
Let's take a detailed look at a series of photos that will help you see how the dish gets made. This section of today's post will be a bit long, but I'm going to err on the side of including more detail rather than less because the visuals are fairly important for this recipe.
First, seasoning the chicken is one place where you can adjust the spiciness of the dish--the rest of the spices in this sauce are mild. If you want some extra heat, use a ton of cayenne pepper here, like we did:
Be sure to mush the chicken pieces around in the spices so that they are liberally covered on all sides.
Then, use the "use high heat to sear the meat" method, and be prepared for a bit of splattering. This cooking technique will keep the chicken tender, yet still cook it fully and safely:
Set the chicken aside, but leave the oil and liquid in the pan.
Note: If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, just skip the chicken cooking part and just add five or six tablespoons of straight olive oil to the pan and proceed to the next step.
Turn the heat back down to medium/medium-high. Then, add the spices...
... and stir them around until they are mixed in with the oil in the pan. Feel free to add more olive oil such that the spice mixture is totally moistened.
Be sure to stir the spice/oil mixture so that everything gets heated evenly. After doing this for a few minutes you'll see the spice mixture begin to darken....
...and then turn almost black and start smoking. If you have an overly sensitive smoke detector in your home, consider disconnecting it temporarily.
If it's the first time you're making this recipe, I know it may seem like you burned the spice mixture (which you did) and therefore irreparably ruined everything (which you did not). It is precisely this part of the process that infuses the mole sauce with its signature smoky, sweet taste.
Now you're nearly done! Turn down the heat to low, add the chocolate, and swirl the chocolate around the bottom of the pan to melt the chocolate fully. This also stops the spices from blackening any further:
Once the chocolate is fully melted, add the stewed tomatoes, return the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
The rest of the recipe is pretty self-explanatory after that.
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