14 August 2008

Mexican meals: Mole

We're about to leave town for our one blessed week of summer vacation.

We'll be spending much of that week in Calgary. If I'm lucky, I'll get to cook for our hosts. Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting my hands onto some serious beef. Which is good, because this has been a week of much chicken.

We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Mexico this winter, sharing the sun, surf and relaxation with some very good friends and visiting mi tío Thomas. While there, Thom set us up for a Saturday cooking lesson with Teresa, his limpiadora. She supplied us with a shopping list (which sent two of us gents off to market to thoroughly test my beginner's Spanish!) and showed up nice and early on Saturday to take us under her short little Mayan wings and teach us how to make mole and tamales.

I'll probably post the tamale recipe at a later date, but for now, here's a fantastic one for Mole Rojo con Pollo (Red Mole with Chicken). We had a chance to make this again, last weekend, with the same friends. But I have to confess it just wasn't the same without Teresa and Thomas there.

Things you should know: it's pronounced moh-lay, and it's a chocolate and spice based sauce for chicken or beef. Not too spicy hot, just warm and rich and satisfying. Don't let the ingredient list scare you. This is worth hunting down the items for a greater good! As with many of the things I post, I don't think exact measurements are important here. Just relax and have some fun.

Serves 6 or more

2 large very ripe plantains (skins should be partially or mostly black)
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 chile Serrano OR 2/3 of a Jalapeno pepper (seeds removed)
4 heaping tsp bread crumbs
1.5 Tsp cinnamon

5 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium-sized tomatoes
1/2 white onion
3 Tbsp pepitas (small green pumpkin/squash seed found in bulk sections)
50-60g Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped into chunks
2 Tbsp prepared Mole sauce (try Latin-American shops/high end grocers)
2 Tsp salt

6+ skinless chicken breasts (about 150g each, boneless or bone in)

White rice (don't skimp on quantities)

Slice the plantains into 1/2 thick slices. Lightly fry plantains in heavy frying pan with oil. Set aside on paper towel to cool.

Char tomatoes and onion over low flame on gas stove or barbecue. 10 minutes ought to do it. Put in blender with garlic, pepitas, chocolate, salt and mole. Blend until silky smooth.

Put chicken breasts in large, lightly oiled sauce pan. Brown. Pour over blended sauce. Cover, simmer for 30 minutes.

Place plantains, chile serrano, bread crumbs, and cinnamon in blender. Add 1 cup water (more if the mixture is too thick to blend, or your plantains weren't super ripe). Blend until smooth. Add this mixture to pot of chicken. Stir very gently to mix.

Let cook, on low boil/high simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your rice. Don't try to do this without fluffing a generous tablespoon of butter into the rice. (Teresa said so, in not so many words.)

Serve chicken with sauce over rice. Good to put extra sauce on the table...it'll get used, believe me!

For sides, either start with salad, or serve it up accompanied by corn on the cob or some grilled peppers and zucchini.

For drinks, pop open some Sol or Corona beer, or if you prefer, match with a nice friendly Tempranillo or Malbec.

Hope you enjoy it. I'll be back after Cow Town.

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