The weather is damp and blahh here in Toronto. Ahhhhh my gypsy spirit longs for distant shores. This makes me think of my friend A Food Gypsy (aka Lisa Kates) and her husband Aaron, who have been so supportive of my blogging. They are going to Mexico next month and will be revelling in the sea and sand, enjoying scrumptious Mexican meals. This brings me to my hankering for mole. There are seven varieties in Oaxaca – but the one I love best is mole negro.
The first time I had mole negro was at a small Mexican restaurant in California. The flavours blew me away. It was so unfamiliar. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this complex and spicy chocolate sauce? It’s one of those things that you have, and never forget.
Usually I embellish upon recipes – especially in areas of comfort. This dish is not to be added to my experimental kitchen handbook. Diana Kennedy, the maven of Mexican cooking, is an authority….and a huge food crush of mine. The idea of knowing an area of food inside and out is very appealing. Her recipe mole negro is shared with you courtesy of the Food Network via Emil Legasse.
You might think to yourself, “I have no idea what half of these ingredients are!”. Don’t let the long list put you off. Mole negro is traditionally served at celebrations and is truly a labour of love. We live in such a fast paced world – once in a while we should stop and take some time. Enjoy each and every ingredient, the sourcing and process is to be savoured. Invite a friend over, crack open a bottle of wine and before you know it, you will have mole negro to share.
One last word of advice….mise en place (everything in place). For me this is the toughest aspect of cooking. If you do, you will be rewarded with a tidy kitchen – despite the complexity of ingredients.
- 2 large chickens (about 3 1/2 pounds each), each chicken cut into 8 pieces
- 2 small heads garlic, scored around the middle
- 2 small white onions, roughly sliced
- 6 fresh mint sprigs
- sea salt
- 1/4 pound chilhuacles negros or guajillos
- 2 ounces chiles pasillas (Mexican, not Oaxacan)
- 2 ounces chiles mulatos
- 1/2 pound (about 1 large) tomatoes, broiled
- 1 cup water
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 whole allspice
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only
- 6 fresh marjoram sprigs, leaves only
- 1 tablespoon mexican oregano
- 3/4 cup melted lard
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup shelled peanuts (I used raw unsalted)
- 10 unskinned almonds (I used raw)
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 small onion, thickly sliced
- 12 small garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 very thick 3-inch cinnamon stick, slivered
- 1 ripe plantain, skinned and cut into thick slices
- 2 crisp-fried corn tortillas (I fried them myself)
- 3 thick slices dried French bread
- 1 (2-ounce) tablet Mexican drinking chocolate (I used Abuela)
- Sea salt
- 4 cups chicken broth (organic)
Chicken – I went to Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market and picked out two lovely chickens, which I butchered myself. I covered the chickens with water and added the salt, onions, mint and garlic and simmered the lot for about 1/2 an hour. You don’t want to over cook the chicken as it should stay moist. Reserve the chicken stock – you will need it later to thin the sauce.
Chiles – While waiting for the stockpot to boil;) You should prep the chiles. I went to Perola Supermarket in Kensington Market to get advice about sourcing the correct ingredients. They were terrific. It really helps to go to a store that specializes in the food you are using.
For me, prepping the chiles was the most difficult part of the process. The smoke from the charred seeds was a bit abrasive and made me cough – and as you can imagine – and the chile juices burn your skin. What ever you do please take care not to touch your face or eyes while preparing the chiles.
Start by removing the stems, veins and seeds from the dried chiles. You can do this fairly easily by slitting the skins and opening them up. Toast the chiles about 50 seconds on each side in a seasoned frying pan without lard. Get used to toasting, as nearly everything you add will be toasted and/or fried. The recipe states that if you are using guajillos, toast them for longer – up to 2 minutes per side.
Rinse the toasted chiles in cold water – strain and then put them in a pan and cover them with hot water. The chiles should be soaked for about 1/2 an hour.
Then char the chile seeds. Put them in a seasoned pain (ungreased) and shake then back and forth over high heat until they become almost uniformly blackened. When they are charred quickly cover them in cold water for 5 minutes, strain and put them into a blender along with the broiled tomatoes, water, cloves, allspice, thyme, marjoram and Mexican oregano. Blend until smooth.
Next heat some lard in the seasoned pan and toast sesame seeds until golden. Drain fat and put into the blender and pulse until smooth. Fry the rest of the ingredients one by one – except for the chiles. Add each ingredient to the blender and pulse until smooth. If the mixture looks too thick and the blades appear to be struggling use the reserved stock to loosen the sauce.
This is what it will look like:
Heat 1/4 cup of lard in the seasoned cast iron pan. Add the sauce and fry over medium heat for about 15 minutes. While you are frying the sauce put the chiles in the blender with 2 cups of the water that they were soaking in and pulse until they are smooth. Add the chiles and chocolate to the sauce you have been frying and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups of the reserved broth and cook for 1/2 hour. The final step is incorporating the chicken. Cook for 10 more minutes and serve. The mole negro should not be thick – use the reserved broth to thin the sauce. It should only just coat the back of a spoon.
We used the extra chicken and sauce to make tacos the next day with grilled veggies. Delicious.