I will preface this by saying this is going to be a LONG entry. There are roughly 30 ingredients and you have to use about 5 different cooking techniques. Also, if you have a dog or a small child I suggest you lock them up somewhere until you are done making this. You will be removing the seeds from about 50 dried peppers of varying degrees of hotness and you are going to inevitably be dropping some on the floor. It should also be mentioned that this dish should not be attempted if you don’t have a free afternoon to kill, it took me almost four hours of nonstop cooking to make this dish. Granted, it was completely worth it, but don’t attempt this if you can’t focus entirely on it… last chance to turn back…
Have you ever had a mole (pronounced Moe-LAY) so complex that every bite reveals new flavors that weren’t apparent in the previous taste? If you are lucky enough to have experienced that, you are probably aware of how much work it takes to accomplish such a feat. We used to go to this great neighborhood Mexican restaurant called Mi Viejo Pueblito, but it closed about a year ago. Since then we have tried to find a suitable replacement, but have failed miserably. With no options left I decided to buy a cookbook and wade into the deep end of traditional Mexican cuisine with one of the most difficult and complicated dishes that can be made. If you have a copy of Julia Child’s eponymous cookbook you will notice the immediate similarities in format. It’s spartan in presentation but full of great advice and recipes. To simplify everything I’ll list the ingredients for each section then start in on the pictorial preparation.
The Chicken: 2 chopped onions, 2 heads of garlic cut through the equator, 6 sprigs of mint, 6 sprigs of thyme, salt, 2 whole chickens.
The first thing you’re going to have to do is break down the chickens. Start by cutting out the backbone with a poultry shear. I used my knife, but it’s unbelievably sharp.
Flip the bird over and use your fingers to locate then carefully remove the wishbone from the top of the breast.
Locate the joint where the thigh meets the carcass and cut away the skin. Cut around the joint and pop the whole leg and thigh off in one piece.
Flip the bird over onto the breast, cut around the breast plate and tear the remaining carcass off the breast using your fingers.
Separate the legs from the thighs and cut the breast in half down the middle and you’re done. It’s really not difficult, just take your time and use the knife sparingly.
Put the broken down chicken along with the chopped onions, halved garlic, salt, thyme, and mint into a stock pot and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Then turn off the heat and just set it aside. You are going to need the stock.
Now comes the fun part.
Mole Negro Oaxaqueno:
20 chilhuacles negros, 10 chiles pasillas, 3 chiles mulatos, 15 chilies guajillos, water, 6 whole cloves, 3 whole allspice, 12 sprigs of thyme, 12 sprigs of marjoram, 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, canola oil, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 cup shelled peanuts, 10 unskinned almonds, 1/4 cup raisins, 1 onion grilled then chopped, 1 head of garlic grilled, 3 sticks of cinnamon, 1 ripe plantain, 2 corn tortillas, 1 Portuguese roll (or 3 slices of french bread), 4 ounces of Mexican drinking chocolate, 2 medium tomatoes grilled, salt to taste, and the chicken stock.
Get a kettle of water going and bring it to a boil, then remove the stems from all of those dried peppers. Split them all in half and remove the seeds, reserving them for later. This is by far the biggest pain of the entire process. You end up getting seeds everywhere and you should wear gloves.
After all of the peppers are deseeded chop them into smaller pieces, in a hot but dry pan, toast the chilhuacles, pasillas, and mulatos for about a minute on each side and transfer to a large bowl. Toast the guajillos until they start to smoke, about 3 minutes a side. Be careful while you are frying these peppers. The smoke and other vapors being generated will make you cough, so keep your nose away from the pan.
Transfer all of the peppers to the bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set that aside for at least 30 minutes. Honestly you are going to be so busy for the next hour, don’t even worry about the timing.
Get out your blender and get that thing ready, it’s going to be used heavily. Add the ground cloves, ground allspice, thyme, marjoram, and oregano to the blender. At this point you basically have to roast all of the ingredients in batches in a pan and then transfer to a blender. The exceptions are the chiles, chocolate, and tomatoes. Start by roasting all the reserved pepper seeds in a dry pan until they turn golden, then turn the heat up and roast them until they smoke and turn black.
Cover the seeds with cold water and let them sit for at least 5 minutes. Strain the water and add the seeds to the blender. Then add a little canola oil to the pan and roast the sesame seeds until they turn golden, add to the blender. Add a cup of water to the blender and turn that thing on.
The blender is going to get a real workout today. You need to pulverize everything to as smooth a consistency as possible. Don’t pile too many things in the jar at once because unless you have a Vitamix or a Blendtec you’ll never get the blades going.
I roasted the peanuts, and almonds at the same time. Then added a touch more oil and roasted the rasins.
Again, roast the plantain and add that to the blender. Turn the blender on after every single addition and let it run for at least a minute, adding a few ladles of the chicken stock to get the circulation going if necessary. Fry the onion and the garlic (both previously grilled), then into the blender. Fry the tortillas until they are crispy, then the Portuguese roll, and again… into the blender.
You would think that after all that roasting and blending the mole is already cooked. Well you would be entirely wrong. Heat about an 1/8 of a cup of canola oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the contents of the blender. I actually couldn’t get everything to fit in my blender, so I added half of the blender to the pot and finished blending the bread. You’ll have to add quite a bit of stock to break away the blades. Cook this over medium heat stirring roughly every 30 seconds, scraping the bottom to ensure nothing burns… and it will want to burn. It will look like the slop you imagine they served Tiny Tim at this point.
If you have an assistant running around the house (wife) who won’t complain (not wife) enlist their help to stir the pot while you get the next part going. In batches, transfer the soaked peppers and their liquid to the blender and zap it for a good five minutes.
Once your orphanage slop has darkened to a brown color, about 10 minutes, add the blended peppers and the Mexican drinking chocolate.
There you go, now we’re getting somewhere. You can taste it safely at this point… if you tasted along the way it was obviously terrible. The recipe called for half the amount of chocolate that I used, and I actually added probably 1/8 of a cup of sugar. The problem is it was a little too bitter for my liking, so add sugar as you see fit. It also needed a lot more salt at this point. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes, then fry the previously grilled tomato for about 2 minutes, then blend and add to the sauce. Add some chicken stock and simmer stirring VERY often for 30 minutes. This stuff is going to want to burn with that chocolate in there. Add in about 2 or 3 cups of the chicken stock. The sauce should be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon. I actually had to divide the sauce at this point because it was so full I couldn’t add any chicken pieces. So if you must, get a second pot warmed up and transfer half of the mole to it, then add the chicken pieces you already cooked to the second pot.
Cook for another 40 minutes, stirring carefully so as not to destroy the chicken, which is very tender. Be sure to continuously scrape the bottom of the pot.
If you have a squirt bottle that is appropriate for sauces, fill it with sour cream at this point. I made some Mexican rice to serve on the side of this, but I’m not going to describe how I did it here - this is already a novel of a post. Squirt some sour cream on the mole and top with chopped cilantro. I’m going to post a lot of photos here, because the effort of making this justifies many photos.
Nothing about this recipe was difficult to do stepwise, but the amount of ingredients, the various cooking techniques, and the length of active time makes this a monster of a dish to create. It should also be said that these peppers and Mexican drinking chocolate can be hard to find. Luckily there is a very good Latino store near me where I found everything. Of course I would do it again, but only for a special occasion. This is without question one of the most complex tasting and most delicious things I’ve ever made.