Recipe R&D: Chicken Mole and Mole Wings

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So, let’s talk a bit about process. The other day, at a friends birthday party, there was some amazing, top notch, and wonderfully authentic catered Mexican food. Amongst it was chicken mole. Everyone remarked at how great it was, including many who said it was the best mole they’d ever had.

Two weeks later, I’ve been craving it again. Of course, that means it was time for a challenge: figure out how to make mole. Now, this isn’t the multi-day, crazy authentic kind, but I’m sure for most people it will satisfy.

Where do I start? The internet of course. Whenever I want to try and make something, I don’t just follow a recipe. The thing with recipes is there are so many different versions, different tastes. Sure, most would be good, but for me, it’s important to tailor to your tastes and develop something that’s yours. Put your spin on it. Make it special. Make it something signature. However, recipes online can help give you building blocks.

I think of recipes kind of like legos. You need certain pieces, and then you put them together to create something. If you figure out what your pieces are, you can figure out what to do with them. So, the building blocks of mole are: dried chiles, chocolate, nuts or nut butter, spice. Some recipes called for dried pasilla chiles, some guajillo, some both. I bought both and found the pasilla to be milder, more raisin-y and the guajillo more sharp and peppery. I decided I wanted both. Some recipes called for raisins, but the pasillas had enough of that for me. Some called for grinding almonds and nuts, some used peanut butter, some called for more chocolate, some very little. I used my judgement and taste to guide me.

As a general rule when developing a recipe, go with small amounts and work up to taste. For cooking method, I treated this like curry. And voila! I made mole. Not just one, but two versions. For one, I just added cut chicken breast into the sauce and cooked until done. For the second, I cooked chicken wingettes and topped with the sauce for a nice take on wings.

*Note, adjust amounts accordingly. I don’t usually measure (or at least not carefully) when I develop these, so they are guidelines, not strict rules.

Here’s the rundown:

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1 2oz package ancho-pasilla chiles

1 2oz package guajillo chiles

Put the chiles in a bowl of water for 15-20 minutes. You may need to weigh them down with a nice or spoon to keep them under. They will get soft and pliable, but not rehydrated. Cut off the stems and discard most seeds. Save the water.

2 small to medium onions, diced

1/4 t. ground oregano, cayenne pepper, cinnamon

1/2 t. each of ground cumin, coriander, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder

2 T. oil

In a large pan (I used my porcelain coated caste iron dutch oven), cook the onion with salt and oil (the salt helps it soften without browning) until soft, then add the spices and cook for another minute or two, in order to let the spices heat and release their flavor.

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2 T. peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter)

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate

1 T. chicken bouillon powder (perhaps more to taste)

1 small can of tomato sauce

In a food processor, put the chiles, peanut butter, chocolate, onions, bouillon, and 2 cups of the water from the chiles and blend until smooth. Return to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

For chicken mole:

Cut up 2-3 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh meat (in large chunks, and cook for 15 minutes.

For mole wings:

Lightly oil desired quantity of wingettes and season with salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and chile powder.

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