The idea of using chocolate for your main entrée may sound strange but once you taste this incredibly layered sauce, you’ll understand why it’s Mexico’s national dish. “Mole” is a Nahuatl word that means “sauce” or “concoction.” Some say the dish originated in Oaxaca, others in Puebla, but the legend typically takes place in a convent with nuns who had to cook for the archbishop and used what they had in their humble pantry: spices, a little chocolate, and then they served the sauce over a turkey.
In other accounts, Fray Pascual was cooking for the viceroy of New Spain when he spilled this unheard-of combination of ingredients into a cazuela. There are various types of moles and some have as many as 30 plus ingredients and some mole recipes contain 10 different varieties of chiles alone. Don’t worry, dried chiles are available at many specialty foods stores, and dark, sweet, grainy-textured Mexican chocolate disks flavored with cinnamon are available at Latinx markets and from mexgrocer.com. For those willing to give it a try, here is a relatively doable recipe by the gourmets at Epicurious.com. This writer suggests serving it with plenty of avocado slices and sprinkling it with sesame seeds as well. Holy Mole are you going to love this dish.
INGREDIENTS (serves 12)
3 tablespoons (or more) peanut oil (preferably unrefined), divided
5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups of orange juice
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 large garlic cloves, sliced
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 ounces dried pasilla chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1 ounce dried negro chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1/4 cup raisins
4 (3 x 1/2-inch) strips orange peel (orange part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (3.1-ounce) disk Mexican chocolate,** chopped
Chopped fresh cilantro
Avocado slices and sesame seeds (recommended by the writer, not Epicurious)
Warm flour tortillas
Begin by seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. In the meantime, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pot and sauté until brown. Next, temporarily transfer the chicken to a large bowl and let it sit in its juices. After that, return the chicken and its juices back into the pot and add the broth and orange juice. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for about half an hour with a cover on it until the chicken is tender.
In the meantime, in a large and heavy saucepan add two tablespoons of the oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Next, add the onions and sauté until they are golden brown for about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the almonds, garlic, cumin, coriander, sautéing it for a few minutes until the nuts and garlic begin to change color. Next add the chiles and stir for about two minutes until they are soft.
Transfer the chicken to a large bowl again, pouring the chicken’s cooking liquid into a saucepan with the onion mixture. Then add raisins, orange peel, and oregano to the saucepan, cover it, until the chiles are very soft, stirring it intermittently for about half an hour.
Next, remove the saucepan from heat, add the chocolate and let it stand until the chocolate melts and cools slightly. Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to a blender and puree it until smooth. Then return it to reserved pot. Season it with salt and pepper. Shred the chicken coarsely and return it to the sauce; stir to coat the chicken.
Finally, transfer the chicken mole to a bowl and sprinkle it with a good amount of fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, fresh avocado and serve with warm corn tortillas.