Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pollo en Mole Poblano

This isn't the most appetizing of photos, but let me tell you, mole paste directly from Mexico is no joke. I find it so strange that I couldn't find a good recipe for using it on the web, and even when I tried asking a restaurant chef in Xochimilco how to use it, his advice was sketchy. He leaned in and said, "I'll tell you my secret: I break sweet cookies up into the mixture." I was like, well, thank you, but I am never going to do that. So I brought home a recipe last night for mole negro just to get an idea of proportions, and then I played around with it a bit. This mole, as I mentioned in a previous post, is from Xochimilco, and it was Mole Poblano, which means that it was made with poblano peppers. It cost about $1.70 for 5 ounces of it, which I used in this recipe that serves 4 well.

This is what I came up with, and it was really very delicious.

Pollo en Mole Poblano

4 skinned, boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
salt & pepper
4 medium sized tomatoes
2 cups of chicken stock
5 ounces of mole poblano paste (or any mole negro)
sliced almonds or pepitas

2 cast iron pans and a small food processor or blender for liquifying the roasted tomatoes.

Start out by browning the chicken breasts in a cast iron pan with some olive oil. When they are well browned, but not cooked all the way through, place the entire pan in the oven at about 325 F.

Next, cut the tomatoes into quarters and heat another dry cast iron pan until it is smoking. Fry the tomatoes in the dry pan until the juices have all come out and you get a nice fragrance. Take the tomatoes out of the pan when they are done and set aside in a bowl.

Rinse out the tomato pan and put it back on the fire to dry a bit. Once dry, put some olive oil in the pan and put the mole paste in and quickly break it up into small pieces. Add a bit of stock tot he mixture until the pieces are nearly all broken down. Don't let the mole burn. Turn the heat to low, and turn back to your tomatoes, which should be no longer steaming hot. Place them in the food processor or blender and make a liquid out of the tomatoes. One recipe suggested straining them, but why waste the nice tomato seeds?

Keep heating the mole and adding stock and pureed tomatoes until you get the consistency you want (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon) and the desired heat intensity (mole can be very spicy).

When it is nice and thick and smooth and soupy, take the chicken out of the oven and pour the mole sauce over the four breasts. Place back on the stove and simmer on low until the chicken is tender. I like mine well cooked so that it is nearly falling apart, you can cook your to the degree that you want.

Spoon a bit of the mole onto a plate and then place a chicken breast on top. Then dollop with a little bit more mole sauce. I didn't sprinkle almonds or pepitas on top, but I would like to have. So you should. If you like them. I served the pollo en mole with plain steamed veggies as a nice clean contrast to the complexity of the sauce.

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