Puebla-Style Chicken Mole
Pollo en Mole Poblano
If there is one dish that could be considered Mexican haute cuisine, then Mole Poblano is surely it. Legend has it that the voluptuous sauce — a blend of chiles, spices, and chocolate — was created by the European Catholic nuns of Puebla to honor a visiting bishop. There are no shortcuts to making a true Mole Poblano: It takes time and patience to develop the layers of flavor that make this sauce fit for royalty. At Fonda San Miguel, this mole is served with chicken and rice and as a sauce for enchiladas. It is also wonderful on roast turkey and pork.Makes 8 servings (9 cups)
9 mulato chiles*
7 pasilla chiles*
6 ancho chiles*
1 cup plus 9 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard plus additional as needed
4 or 5 tomatillos, husked and cooked until soft
5 whole cloves
20 whole black peppercorns
1-inch piece of a cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon seeds from the chiles, toasted
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
8 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
4 garlic cloves, roasted
3 tablespoons raisins
20 whole almonds, blanched
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
3 stale French rolls, cut into 1-inch slices
6 to 7 cups reserved chicken broth as needed
1 1/2 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped
*Mulato, pasilla, and ancho chiles are three varieties of dried chiles often used in Mexican cooking. The ancho chile (a poblano that has ripened to a dark red color and dried) is rust-colored, broad at the stem and narrowing to a triangular tip. The mulato, a relative to the poblano, is dark brown and triangular. The shiny black pasilla chile, a dried chilaca chile, is narrow and five to six inches long. Good quality chiles should be fragrant and pliable. Wipe them carefully with a damp cloth or a paper towel to remove any dust.
In a large stock pot, parboil the chicken in water seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Drain, reserving cooking broth, and refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish.
Prepare the Mole Poblano. Clean the chiles by removing stems, veins, and seeds; reserve 1 tablespoon of the seeds. Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a heavy skillet until it shimmers. Fry the chiles until crisp, about 10 to 15 seconds, turning once; make sure they do not burn. Drain on paper towels. Put the chiles in a nonreactive bowl, cover with hot water, and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking water. Puree the chiles in a blender with enough of the soaking water to make a smooth paste. It may be necessary to scrape down the sides and blend several times to obtain a smooth paste. In a heavy Dutch oven heat an additional 1/2 cup oil over medium heat and add the chile puree (be careful — it will splatter). Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.
Puree the tomatillos in a blender. In a coffee or spice grinder, grind the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, and toasted seeds. Add the seed mixture and the garlic to the pureed tomatillos and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Heat 6 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy frying pan. Fry each of the following ingredients and then remove with a slotted spoon: the raisins until they puff up; the almonds to a golden brown; the pumpkin seeds until they pop. If necessary, add enough oil to make 4 tablespoons and fry the tortilla pieces and bread slices until golden brown, about 15 seconds per side; remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Add raisins, almonds, pumpkins seeds, tortillas, and bread to the tomatillo puree and blend, using 1 to 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth, as needed, to make a smooth sauce. This may have to be done in batches. In a heavy Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the chile puree, the tomatillo puree, and the Mexican chocolate (be careful — it will splatter). Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the remaining 5 cups of chicken broth, cook over low heat for an additional 45 minutes, stirring often enough to prevent the mixture from scorching on the bottom. During the last 15 minutes of cooking time, add the parboiled chicken and heat through. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with white rice.
- To seed dried chiles, use a sharp paring knife to make a slit down the side and carefully scrape out the seeds. It's a good idea to wear gloves when handling chiles. According to Ravago, you can vary the number of each chile you use, so long as the total number equals 22, but only use pasilla, mulato, or ancho chiles. Do not substitute another type.
- Making mole is a time-consuming process, but Chef Ravago warns against taking shortcuts; otherwise, the mole will have an off taste. For instance, the recipe calls for toasting each type of seed individually. This is done to intensify and lock in the flavor of each, as the heating process brings the oils to the surface. If you heat all types of seeds together, the flavors will become mixed, resulting in a muddy-tasting mole.
- To make the most of your efforts, prepare a double batch of mole, serving a portion and keeping the rest to freeze. According to Ravago, the mole will keep frozen for up to a month. Simply thaw and reheat. If the texture is grainy after reheating, simply reblend the sauce.
- For easier serving, chunks of boneless, skinless chicken can be used. The recipe calls for parboiling, but you can prepare the chicken in any number of ways, Ravago says, either baked, roasted, or grilled. You can even use a purchased rotisserie chicken. Or, Ravago says, you can substitute duck, quail, turkey, or any kind of poultry for the chicken.
Reprinted with permission from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art, Shearer Publishing