POLLO CON MOLE: HARD LABOUR DOWN MEXICO WAY
A few days ago, I posted one of my all too regular rants on Facebook and Twitter, this time about the fact that too many recipes now seem to be bastardized “quick & easy” takes on the classic.
Almost inevitably, I got responses from people who said “there is nothing wrong with quick & easy recipes, some of us don’t have the time to spend all day cooking”. Of course, if they had taken the time to actually read what I had written, they would have noticed that I never said there that all cooking had to involve slaving over the stove for hours on end. I merely pointed out that there are certain recipes that are meant to involve a lot of effort and that quick fix versions do them a disservice and produce an end result that is a pale reflection of the real thing.
Yesterday, I thought I should put my money where my sizeable mouth is and prove to myself that not only are some dishes not meant to be rushed, but also that the effort involved is more than repaid in amazing flavours.
I had a lot of choices, but for the last few weeks I have been seriously craving Mole, the deep, savoury, smoky sauce from Mexico. Mole is legendary for the amount of effort required in its preparation and for the wide variety of styles in which it can be found. As I discovered when I started to research recipes on line, just about every person will have a different take on the sauce, using different chillies and different methods of preparation.
In the end, I took notes from dozens of different ones and constructed the recipe below before heading out to buy the ingredients from my local Mexican market here in LA.
It took most of the day to prepare and involved more rendering, toasting, grinding, blending, stirring and sieving that any man should ever have to put up with on a pleasant Saturday. But, was the end result worth it? Did it support my theory that some dishes should never be made the “quick & easy” way?
Well, I can say hand very firmly on heart that the end result, my “Pollo Con Mole” easily takes its place in the top ten of dishes I have ever prepared and, as an added bonus, I now have a big tub full of the stuff in the freezer for future use.
It’s not quick and it is definitely not easy. In fact, it is a bit of a pain in the arse to make. But, some dishes are just worth the effort and if you don’t have time or inclination to make them, it is probably God’s way of telling you that you are not meant to eat them.
Chicken Thighs (2 Per Person)
4 Dried Guajillo Chillies
4 Dried Pasilla Chillies
4 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cups Boiling Water (for soaking the chillies)
1 12oz Can Tomatoes
8 Cloves Garlic
1 large White Onion
½ Cup Raisins
1 Corn Tortilla
½ Cup Raw Skinned Peanuts
½ Cup Raw Skinned Almonds
½ Cup Sesame Seeds
½ Cup Mexican Drinking Chocolate (or 80% Dark Chocolate)
4 All Spice Berries
1 Stick Canela (Cinnamon)
4 Black Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp White Pepper
¼ Cup Lard (I rendered my own from some pork skin, but you can use shop bought)
Split the dried chillies. Remove and retain the seeds.
Place the chillies on a dry frying pan or griddle and toast them on both sides until they colour but do not burn.
Cover the chillies with 2 cups of boiling water and leave to soften for thirty minutes.
Blend the chillies with a little of their soaking liquid until the form a paste.
Pass through a sieve to remove all the skins and leave a smooth paste.
Roast the onions and garlic in the skins. Peel and set aside to cool.
Dice the tomatillo and add to the tomatoes in a saucepan with a little oil.
Add the oregano and thyme.
Add the salt & pepper
Add the raisins.
Cook this until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Add the peeled onions and garlic.
Blend with a little of the soaking liquid from the chillies and pass through a sieve to make a smooth “tomato” paste.
Toast the Allspice, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in a dry frying pan and then grind to a fine powder.
Toast the chilli seeds in a dry frying pan.
Toast the peanuts, sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan.
Toast a torn corn tortilla in a dry frying pan.
Add the toasted chilli seeds and tortilla to the nuts and grind them all to a fine powder.
Add the spice mixture to the nut/seed/tortilla mixture and mix to a fine paste with the remaining soaking liquid from the chillies. You may want to blend this one more time to make a really smooth paste.
Add three tbsp of lard to a large saucepan.
When it begins to smoke, add the tomato mixture.
Reduce to a low heat and cook slowly until it begins to darken in colour. This may take about ten minutes.
Add the nut/seed/spice mixture and combine thoroughly.
Cook on a low heat until you see the spices begin to release their oils on the surface of the liquid.
Add the chilli paste and combine well.
Cook for a further ten minutes until the chilli paste is totally combined.
Add the chicken stock and cook on a low heat for twenty minutes or until the sauce has reduced by at least half.
Pass through a sieve one final time to make sure you have a silky smooth, glossy end result.
Place the sauce back in the pan and add the grated Mexican chocolate.
Cook on a low heat until the chocolate has melted.
While the Mole is cooking, skin the chicken thighs and bake until cooked.
When ready to serve, place two chicken thighs on each plate and cover totally with Mole.
Serve with rice and lots of hot corn tortillas.