The whole enchilada: Recipes as good as you’ll get at your favorite Mexican restaurant | Food and cooking

Mole Poblano - hard

Mole Poblano, the Hard Way on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, [email protected]

20 dried pasilla negro chiles

4 dried puya chiles, optional, see note

1½ cups corn oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, peeled, divided

¼ teaspoon coriander seeds

2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

¾ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ cup sesame seeds, toasted, divided

¼ bolillo roll, sliced crosswise in 4 slices

¼ cup shelled raw peanuts

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon blanched almonds

Leaves from 1 sprig thyme

2 tablespoons salt, divided

2 tablets Mexican chocolate, or 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

½ to 1 cup granulated sugar, according to taste

2 whole chickens, cut into serving pieces, or 6 pounds chicken parts

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into quarters

¾ cup Mexican crema for garnish

Note: To make a milder version, omit the puya chiles. The chiles, Mexican chocolate and crema (a type of sour cream) are available in Mexican and Latin markets.

1. The day before making the mole, remove the stems and seeds from the chiles; rinse the chiles and pat dry. Reserve ¾ teaspoon of the seeds and set aside. Heat ½ cup oil in a large skillet, add the chiles (in batches if necessary) and fry until glossy, about 4 minutes. Drain and place in a Dutch oven. Cover with 10 cups hot water, add the vinegar and let stand overnight.

2. The next day (or several hours later), drain the chiles and reserve the soaking liquid. Working in batches, place the drained chiles in a blender. Add enough soaking liquid to blend them smoothly. Repeat with the remaining chiles and set the mixture aside. This makes about 8 cups.

3. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Do not peel them before or after roasting. Slice ½ small onion crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces. Roast the tomatoes, sliced onion and 2 cloves of garlic in an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat until spotted with brown. Set aside.

4. Add the coriander seeds, anise seeds, pepitas, reserved chile seeds, peppercorns, cloves, ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds and cinnamon stick to the skillet and roast just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to another bowl.

5. Add ½ cup oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, fry the tortilla, then the bolillo slices, until the tortilla is crisp and the bolillo slices are golden. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Fry the plantain slices until golden and softened. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

6. Fry the peanuts, almonds and raisins for about 1 minute until almonds and peanuts are well-browned. Drain on a paper towel. Fry the seeds and spices toasted in step 4 for 30 seconds. Strain them through a sieve, discarding the oil.

7. Heat the remaining ½ cup oil in a Dutch oven. Add the puréed chile mixture and enough of the reserved soaking liquid to keep the puréed mixture from erupting like a volcano when it simmers. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often.

8. Add the fried cinnamon stick to the puréed chile mixture. In a blender, combine the rest of the spices, seeds, nuts and raisins. Grind with enough chile soaking liquid to purée. Add to the chile mixture.

9. Grind the reserved roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic cloves, the thyme leaves and the parsley sprig in the blender with enough chile soaking liquid to purée, then add to the Dutch oven.

10. Crumble the fried tortilla into small pieces. Place the bolillo slices, tortilla pieces and plantain slices in the blender with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add enough soaking liquid to blend. Add this to the Dutch oven. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until dissolved. Add sugar to taste.

11. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency and becomes very dark. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, in batches if necessary, and return to a clean pot. Failure to strain the sauce will result in an unpleasant texture filled with flecks of chile skin. Place the sauce over low heat. Discard remaining chile soaking liquid. Makes 10 cups of sauce.

12. Wash the chicken pieces and place them in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add water to cover. Add the medium onion quarters, bay leaves, remaining 4 garlic cloves and remaining tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot. Strain the stock and set aside.

13. Place the chicken pieces into the pot with the mole sauce or, if there is not room, put the chicken in a large pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to cook until cooked through, an additional 15 to 20 minutes, adding stock as needed to thin the sauce. Reserve remaining stock for another use.

14. To serve, place a serving of chicken on each plate and cover generously with mole sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Drizzle crema on the chicken and around the plate. Serve with Mexican or white rice. Freeze leftover mole in an airtight container.

Per serving: 881 calories; 61g fat; 14g saturated fat; 115mg cholesterol; 40g protein; 50g carbohydrate; 26g sugar; 12g fiber; 1,298mg sodium; 104mg calcium.

Recipe adapted from one by Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu in the Los Angeles Times

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