Friday, August 12, 2016

Braised Chicken Mole

I remember when I first discovered mole. I was downtown with one of my highschool classes on a field trip, and we had been given two hours and the run of the city (well, within walking distance) for lunch. I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you where one of my classmates and I wound up, but we followed our noses and stumbled into a little hole-in-the-wall joint that looked like it could have been someone's house (come to think of it, we never actually checked...). All I remember is that we both ordered chicken mole, after seeing it advertised as a "chocolate laced stew". When the meal arrived it was stunning - a platter of rich, moist chicken, rice and some sort of vegetable smothered in almost black, bittersweet mole. 

The smell of it originally made me pause - it was almost fruity, and not being a fan of my fruit touching anything, I hoped my hard earned babysitting dollars weren't being wasted. I needn't have worried. Three bites in and I was dancing between salty, sweet and spicy flavours every few seconds. The chocolate was not present as an independent flavour, but added body, colour and richness. Plus, being chocolate, what more could a teenage girl ask for? 


Braised Chicken Mole

I've been a huge fan of mole-ish flavours ever since, and while making a "true" rendition is nowhere near my wheelhouse of expertise, I have managed to cobble together some pretty fine "mockmoles" over the years. Whether it's a simple pot of red beans and polenta that I pretty much emprty my spice cabinet into (I do that a lot, come to think of it) or a long, multi-step braise like this one, the layers of flavours are always important, as is the subtle richness of the base. This time, I had a jar of inspiration waiting for me in the form of Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam. Having enjoyed it on corn tortillas already, I knew it was full of that spicy-sweet balance mole is known for. It just needed some broth to "sauce-ify" it and a traditionally nutty base to temper the heat a tad. Most moles that I've found recipes for use either peanuts or almonds as their base, and I'm sure they're delicious - but around here, we love our pecans and cashews. Pecans seemed just too out of place for this, so in went a scoop of cashew butter and some chopped nuts instead, which made a rich, luxurious sauce to braise my organic, prime-grade chicken in. 

For me, the hardest part of the whole meal was breaking down that bird! Once it was chopped into 6 pieces and braised to melt-in-your-mouth perfection, it was finished with roasted red peppers and home-grown beet greens. A bowl of it served with rice was not only gorgeous, but it was a hearty, wholesome dinner for Mom that night after running around all day on errands. The next day, a stray piece of chicken that had fallen off the bone somehow made it into her mouth cold, and she declared it was even better than next-day fried chicken!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Braised Chicken Mole
Serves 6
1 tbsp canola oil
1.5 kg whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces (I removed the skin from the leg / thighs but left it on the breast)
1 large, sweet onion, sliced into half moons

Sauce
¾ cup Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam
¼ cup smooth, natural-style cashew butter (no salt / sugar)
2 tbsp natural cocoa
1 tsp ancho chili powder
½ tbsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ cup raisins
5 garlic cloves
¼ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
¼ cup coarse-ground cornmeal
5 cups gluten free, low sodium chicken stock (I used homemade)

To finish:
1 500 ml jar roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ cup diced beet green stems
1 lb beet greens (or kale, collards, chard… any green!)
Cooked rice (I used long-grain brown)
  1. Heat the oven to 325F.
  2. Pour oil into a cast iron Dutch oven (or similar pot) and place over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden.
  5. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, puree the Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam, cashew butter, cocoa, ancho chile powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cinnamon, salt, raisins and garlic until smooth.
  6. Add the cashew halves and cornmeal and pulse until finely chopped.
  7. Increase the heat to high and pour the chicken stock into the pot, stirring vigorously to dislodge the fond at the bottom.
  8. Pour the sauce mixture into the pot, stirring, then add the chicken pieces and beet green stems and turn to coat in the sauce.
  9. Cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Stir in the red peppers and beet green stems, re-cover and braise another 20 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and stir in the beet greens.
  12. Serve over rice.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 338.6
Total Fat: 17.8 g
Cholesterol: 42.4 mg
Sodium: 927.8 mg
Total Carbs: 31.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 17.5 g