Feb 28, 2009

Faster Mole?

Mole. The rich, velvety complexity. It's warming and soul-satisfying. But, intimidating. I really like the intriguing combinations of flavors in different kinds of moles. But the laborious process of producing this wonderous sauce has kept it out of my reach. Elusive and mysterious. It's one of those, "one day, when I have time..." things. But I never have time. So I've never tried making mole myself.

Then I ran across this recipe in Cook's Illustrated for a faster mole. I was dubious. Instead of cooking all of the ingredients separately and then simmering them together for hours, this recipe calls for thickening the sauce for about 10 minutes and then pureƩing the ingredients together before pouring them over chicken and baking for about 40 minutes. They used ancho and chipotle chiles, onion, cinnamon, a little chocolate, clove, garlic, tomatoes, raisins, sesame seeds and instead of a combination of ground nuts, they used smooth roasted almond butter instead. This adds velvety, nutty richness that is smooth and binds the sauce together with no grit.

I tinkered with this recipe just a little, using golden currants instead of raisins, adding more cinnamon and chiles and substituting agave syrup in place of sugar.

As you can see from the photo (which I've agonized over because it's so homely), this is not beauty pageant pretty food, but it's really tasty. Especially if you let the flavors develop overnight and serve it the second day. I'll be making this one again and will try to get you a prettier shot to replace the one above.

I made it according to the timing directions called for and we had it for dinner the first night. It had a nice complexity but I kept wanting the flavors to be more cohesive, to work together more smoothly. Then we put the leftovers in the fridge and had it again for dinner the next day. It was sooooo much better. The cinnamon was warmer, the flavors were rounded and fuller and not as rawly spicy. It came together. So next time, I would make the sauce, then put the uncooked chicken in it as a marinade and refrigerate overnight. Then cook it, probably a bit longer than the 40 minutes called for, maybe closer to an hour and a little lower temp so that the chicken doesn't dry out.

Try it yourself and see what you think. This is a mole I'd be proud to serve for company. It's perfect on a chilly day like this. And we won't get many more of these before the Texas broiler heats up for summer.

Faster Mole

2 ancho chiles
1 chipotle chile
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola)
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 ounce bittersweet or Mexican chocolate, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth (low-sodium)
14.5 ounces canned diced, roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup golden currants
1/4 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons agave syrup
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

First, toast the chiles. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make sure your oven racks are in the middle position. Put the chiles on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and puffy, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then remove seeds and stems and tear chiles into small pieces. (If you wear contacts, you may want to consider doing this with gloves on to avoid unhappiness later.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook 5 or 6 minutes until softened. Then add the chile pieces, cinnamon, cloves and chocolate. Stir together for 2 minutes until the chocolate melts and the you can smell the spices.

Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, raisins, almond butter and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Let thicken over heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens down to about 2 1/2 cups. (They recommended a 10-minute timeframe here, but I cooked it longer. Let your taste be the judge.) Add the salt, pepper, and agave syrup and stir together.

Here, you can decide if you want to cook it right away or let the sauce cool, add the uncooked chicken and let it marinate overnight before proceeding.

Either way, take a wide, shallow casserole pan, and spray it with cooking spray. Place the chicken across the bottom (single layer). Let the sauce cool first, if you're going to marinate, or dump it right on in there if you're going straight into the oven.

Bake, uncovered, for at least 40-45 minutes. Next time, I think I'll lower the oven temp a bit and cook it slower and lower. Follow your own judgement here.

When cooking is complete, let rest on stovetop, covered loosely, for 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with additional toasted sesame seeds.

I still want to try making mole the traditional way. One day, I'll get out my Rick Bayless and try my hand at a green mole. But in the meantime, I'll be making this one.

Serves 6.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

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