Living in San Diego part of the year, I have been spoiled with the variety of fresh and dried chili peppers that are sold in supermarkets, including the sweet and smoky ancho chile and the red fruity guajillo, both used in making the tasty Mexican dish, Chicken Mole Poblano.
This dish produces a rich reddish-brown sauce filled with spices, chilies, nuts and a hint of chocolate. Legend has it that the dish was invented at the convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, Mexico. When the nuns heard that the archbishop was going to visit the convent, they panicked and ‘threw together’ bits and pieces of whatever they could find: chili peppers, bread, spices, nuts and even chocolate. This sounds like it could be called an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ sort of dish.
This is not an everyday sort of dish, but is usually reserved for special occasions such as birthdays. Some cooks use up to 30 ingredients for their Mole Poblano and spend all day making it. Some have added plantains, tomatillos and even toasted pumpkin seeds to their Poblano dish. But that sounds a bit over the top for me: I use about 15 ingredients and it takes me about 45 minutes to make the sauce and another 1 hour for the cooking.
To be honest, some people are turned off by the thick brown color of the sauce, but I can’t help licking the spoon as I make this dish. And sshhh, (don’t tell anyone) I use a little peanut butter in my recipe instead of ground peanuts. I learned this recipe tip from a Mexican restaurant in Borrego Springs, California.
To make the mole sauce, the tomatoes are first roasted in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, then the white cores are removed. Next, the ancho and guajillo dried chilies are toasted for a few minutes on the stove top, then soaked in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes to re-hydrate. You could also used chili powders for this dish but the taste would not be the same.
These ingredients are then added to a blender along with onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, raisins and piece of stale bread. The seasonings, Mexican chocolate and peanut butter are then added and the sauce and chicken pieces are finally baked together in the oven.
Be sure and adjust the seasoning as you go; if you like your food spicy, add a few more chilies to the dish. If you find the Mexican chocolate a bit bitter, then add a dash of sugar. And you don’t need to wait for a visit from the archbishop to serve this dish- your family and friends should love it too!
Chicken pieces covered with mole sauce, ready for baking in the oven.
- Main Ingredients:
- 4 -5 pieces of chicken thighs, bone in
- 2 Tbsps. olive oil
- 2 Ancho Chiles, dried
- 2 Guajillo Chiles, dried
- 1 cup hot water
- 3 large tomatoes, roasted
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- ¼ cup raisins, heated and ‘plumped up’
- 1 piece of stale bread or baguette
- 1 tbsp dried coriander
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- Pinch of cloves
- 40 grams Mexican chocolate
- 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
- Salt to taste
- Chicken stock (enough to cover the chicken pieces)
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- Parsley sprigs
- Pre-heat broiler oven to 400 F. Slice tomatoes in half, place on baking tray lined with parchment paper, sprinkle pieces with olive oil and salt. Place on top oven rack and roast for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes soften and some juices start to appear in the tray. Be careful not to burn the tomatoes. Remove from oven and set aside. (Note: you could also add a few tomatillos to the roasting pan if you wish).
- To prepare the Ancho and Guajillo dried chilies: place them on a dry fry pan over medium-high heat and press down with a spatula for one minute until they soften and start to change color, turn the chilies over and press down for one more minute. Remove from heat, cut the chilies open and remove the seeds. Chop roughly into pieces.
- Place the chilies in 1 cup of very hot water to soften, let soak for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Chop the onion, garlic pieces, and jalapeno pepper. Heat some olive oil in a fry pan over medium high heat, place the ingredients in the fry pan and heat for several minutes until soft. Remove from pan; heat the raisins in the pan for several minutes until they ‘plump up.’
- In a blender, add the roasted tomatoes, the chilies along with the soaking liquid, onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper , raisins and bread. Blend for several minutes until the sauce is smooth.
- Transfer the sauce to a sauce pan. Add the dried coriander, cinnamon, cloves, peanut butter and Mexican chocolate. Stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Add salt to taste. Add a pinch of sugar if you prefer the sauce a little sweeter. Set aside.
- Brown the chicken pieces: first remove any excess skin from the chicken thighs and sprinkle salt on both sides of the chicken. Place several tablespoons of oil in a fry pan; over medium high heat, brown the chicken pieces on both sides for several minutes. Let drain on some kitchen paper.
- Place the chicken pieces in a casserole dish or Dutch oven, cover the pieces with the Mole sauce. Add a splash of chicken stock to ‘moisten’ the mixture.
- Bake for about one hour until the chicken becomes tender.
- Place on individual serving plates. Top with some toasted sesame seeds and a few parsley sprigs.