Monday, March 1, 2010

R2R: Chicken Mole Poblano

When I think of February, Valentines day, romance and chocolate springs to mind, So when looking for a recipe for this month I wanted something that shouted Valentines day at me. Mole, that fabulous savory chocolate pepper sauce, does that for me. Spicey and full of passion with the romance of chocolate and just as individual as those we love.

The origin of mole poblano, the thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce made so famous in the colonial mountain city of Puebla, Mexico, is still disputed, and generally involves these two versions of the legend:

The first says that 16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chiles together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients..

This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant mole sauce we know today. To serve in the mole, they killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it. The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face. Little did they know they were creating the Mexican National dish for holidays and feasts, and that today, millions of people worldwide have at least heard of mole poblano.

The other legend states that mole came from pre-hispanic times and that Aztec king, Moctezuma, thinking the conquistadors were gods, served mole to Cortez at a banquet to receive them. This story probably gained credibility because the word mole comes from the Nahuatl word “milli” which means sauce or “concoction”. Another connection could be that chocolate was widely used in pre-columbian mexico, so people jumped to that conclusion.

Here is the recipe I chose (mainly for its simplicity and use of fairly common ingredients) please read the notes at the end and enjoy. :)

Chicken Mole Poblano
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence

Mole sauce:

2 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 dried anaheim chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken in pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Mexican, chopped


1 capon or large chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chicken stock

Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving

For the mole:
Tear the ancho, anaheim, and chipotle chiles into large pieces and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes.

Put them into a bowl with the raisins and cover them with hot water. Soak until softened, about 30 minutes.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the almonds, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, oregano, and thyme. Toast for 2 minutes, grind in a spice grinder, and add the powder to a blender.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat add the olive oil, onions, garlic, and serrano. Cook until lightly browned, then add the tomatoes. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 to 15 minutes, then add to the blender.

Add the chocolate and the soaked chiles and raisins to the blender along with some of the chile soaking liquid.

Puree, adding more soaking liquid as needed, to make a smooth sauce. (This makes about 4 cups sauce, the recipe uses 2 cups, the extra can be frozen).

for the Chicken:
Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and season it well with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and brown the chicken on all sides; remove the browned chicken to a plate leaving the oil in the pan.

Pour 2 cups of the mole sauce into the hot skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and return the chicken pieces to the pan.

Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve over cooked white rice. Garnish everything with cilantro leaves.

I realize that all palates and shopping centers are not created equal, so feel free to mix and match your peppers to suite. You can look up how hot different peppers are here (Scoville scale). I skipped the serrrano on mine and while the sauce was good it was definitely missing something, so keep in mind it is important for your sauce to have a bit of bite.

The sauce is perfectly edible before the final step of adding the chicken broth (or veggie) so give it a taste and change it up as needed for your taste buds.

This sauce is suppose to be smooth, and barring commercial equipment, we are just not going to achieve that perfectly smooth texture, so don't be afraid to blend the heck out of everything.

For those not familiar with Mexican chocolate, like Ibarra, it is grainy with cocoa nibs, sugar and cinnamon. While delicious it is not the same as your regular baking chocolate.

Don't forget when working with peppers use care, wash your hands well and frequently and wear gloves, pepper juice in your eye or up your nose is not fun.

Temper's Take:
This was really really good (even if it did need those serranos I left out). It was also alot easier than I had been led to believe by some of the recipes out there. Even Indra liked it.

It smelled so good cooking, though I will admit most things smell good when you toast them. I found my self snitching bits as I put everything together.

I used chicken quarters with the skin on, the skin turned kind of soft and icky and it was hard getting the meat off the bone with a fork (the mole made this not a finger food) so next time I would use skinless breasts (or use pork, mmmm pork) to avoid these issues.

I would have loved to pair this with an Avocado salad and jazzed the rice up with some cilantro and lime but I wanted Indra to at least try it so I am saving that for next time. The tortillas though were perfect with it. I was tempted to do a chocolate dessert with the left over Ibarra but couldn't think of anything that Indra wouldn't prefer with regular chocolate, And since it was for Valentines, she gets what she wants.

Monday, February 1, 2010

R2R: Parmigiana di Melanzane

Somewhere in the world eggplant is in season. I know this because my local supermarket just got in some real beauties. So in celebration here is an Eggplant Parmesan recipe for one of my favorite Italian chefs.

Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali

Ingredients•2 pounds (about 2 medium-sized) eggplant
•4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
•1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
•2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
•1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
•1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.

In a sauté pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Press the drained eggplant pieces into the seasoned bread crumb mixture and sauté until light golden brown on both sides. Repeat with all of the pieces. On a cookie sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Fresh bread crumbs are required for the coating to stick without an egg wash.
The oil must be HOT HOT HOT or the eggplant will not cook fast enough and will be a greasy soggy mess.
The Mozzarella must be very thinly sliced or the eggplant tower will slide (it will still taste great)

Temper's Take:
I am in love, it was so much easier than I expected and oh soooo good! The only down side is I eat it alone as Indra does not like stinky cheese (she claims Parmesan smells like old gym socks). But that did mean more for me so maybe that was a positive after all. FYI it is also good made with zucchini just layered in a casserole and not fried.