Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mole poblano

Tonight's extravaganza: chicken in mole poblano, frijoles de olla, cactus salad. Our guests, the ever-game Ashcrofts, brought a quinoa salad.

It was touch a go for a bit and I was worried that it wouldn't turn out, but in the end it all came together.

Mole is immensely time consuming, involving a multitude of ingredients that have to be toasted, ground, and fried, in what appears to be a heart-stopping amount of lard. The kitchen got a little crazy and I found myself stopping to clean periodically so I wouldn't end up using every dish in the house.

Which would be quite easy to do, so plan ahead. I used the same cast iron skillet to fry the chiles, fry the chile puree, brown the chicken, toast the spices and sesame seeds, fry the raisins, etc.

Time organization is tricky too; some steps can be done simultaneously or in a different order. I toasted the spices for step 3c and did the frying for step 3d well in advance of when the recipe says to do them, and just set the ingredients aside until they were needed. Also, I was short on time, so I didn't get to simmer it quite as long as the recipe calls for, but it still turned out fine.

Other changes of note: I did not have any chiles mulatos, so I left them out. Also, I used chicken instead of turkey. Certain things could be done in advance (make the sauce the day before; precook the chicken and warm it in the sauce 20 minutes before serving). Anyway, here it is. Adapted from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico.

1. The chiles
Approximately 1/2 cup lard
8 ancho chiles, seeds and veins removed
6 chiles negros, seeds and veins removed
(reserve 1 tablespoon chile seeds for later)

Heat the lard in a skillet and briefly fry the chiles on both sides. [Kennedy says to take care not to let them burn, but she doesn't bother to mention that frying dried chiles in lard releases a tear-gas cloud of pepper smoke into the kitchen that will chase your loved ones outside.] While your family takes refuge in the backyard, fry the chiles, place them in a bowl of cold water and soak them for one hour. Drain.

2. The chicken
2 4-pound chickens, cut into serving pieces
approximately 1/3 cup lard
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the lard in a large cast iron skillet and fry the chicken pieces, a few at a time, until the skin turns golden brown. Place the chicken pieces in an oven-safe Dutch oven, sprinkle with salt, cover and braise in the oven for about 40 minutes. Pan juices can be added to broth.

3. The rest of the sauce
Approximately 8 cups chicken broth (low-sodium, preferably homemade)
1/2 cup tomatillos, cooked (to cook tomatillos, remove husks and boil for approximately 15 minutes)
3 garlic cloves, charred and peeled
4 whole cloves
10 peppercorns
1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, toasted
1/8 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
1/8 teaspoon aniseeds, toasted
1 tablespoon reserved chile seeds, toasted
7 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
approximately 1/4 cup lard
2 tablespoons raisins
20 unskinned almonds
1/3 cup raw, hulled pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
1 small dried tortilla
3 small slices dry French bread
1 1/2 oz Mexican drinking chocolate (1/2 tablet)
Salt to taste

a. Blend the drained chiles, a few at a time, in one cup of water, adding only enough additional water to release blender blades. Melt a little lard in a heavy skillet over medium heat and fry the puree for about 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid sticking. Set aside.
b. Blend tomatillo and garlic and in 1 cup of broth.
c. Grind the spices together with the chile seeds in a spice grinder. Add to blender. Grind three tablespoons of sesame seed (reserving 4 tablespoons for later). Add to blender.
d. Melt 1/4 cup lard in a frying pan and separately fry the raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, tortilla, and bread, draining each ingredient in a colander before adding to blender. Add another cup of thr broth, or enough to release the blades of the blender, until you have a thick, slightly textured paste.
e. Add the paste to the chile puree and continue cooking, again scraping the bottom of the pan, for about 5 minutes. Break the chocolate into small pieces and add it to the mole with another cup of the broth and continue cooking for 5 minutes more. Dilute the mole with another 4 cups of the broth, test for salt [start with about 1 teaspoon and work up from there] and continue cooking over medium heat until well seasoned and pools of oil form on the surface -- about 40 minutes.
f. Add the chicken pieces and cook for another 20 minutes. [I removed the skin from the chicken pieces before adding them to the sauce.]

Serve each portion sprinkled with a little of the reserved sesame seeds.

No comments: