For me, a good mole chicken does for Mexican food what a good pulled pork does for southern cooking. Both are richly seasoned and slow cooked meat which become so tender they can be shredded with a fork and then eaten as is, as part of a sandwich or on top of a favorite grain. They are simultaneously so simple yet their flavors are so complex that the meal becomes unforgettable.
The secret to a good mole chicken is the combination of chile peppers and chocolate. Yes, chocolate. But not any chocolate will do for this dish. Mexican chocolate, which is readily available at Mexican speciality stores and many gourmet grocery stores is smooth and rich with a touch of heat that adds to its complexity. The closest comparison I can come up with is that of a good quality chocolate with a touch of cinnamon and chile pepper. And when you combine the chocolate with two types of dried chile peppers you have the makings of an unforgettable mole. This version from Epicurious braises the chicken in fresh orange juice which only adds to the sauce’s sweet complexity. A good chicken mole dish may take some time to make but the results are worth every minute.
3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (more if necessary)
5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 large garlic cloves, sliced
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 ounces dried pasilla chile, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1 ounce dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1/4 cup golden raisins
4 3 x 1/2-inch strips orange peel (orange part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
Warm flour tortillas for serving
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat.
- Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper.
- Working in batches, brown the chicken in the pot, for about 3 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pot as necessary.
- Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot.
- Add the broth and orange juice to the chicken and bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium then add the almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until the nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes.
- Add chiles and stir until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to large bowl. Pour the chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture .
- Add the raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan; cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat then add the chocolate to the pot. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
- Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth.
- Return the puree to the reserved pot. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
- Using two forks, coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat.
- Rewarm over low heat before serving topped with the warm tortillas.