Mole, mole, mole, moley! Not a skin condition, but rather a delightful tradition of complex sauces bought to us by our neighbors to the south. However, whenever I read “mole” on a Mexican menu, this comes to mind:
Doing the research for this recipe was nuts! Everyone claims to have their abuela’s REAL, AUTHENTIC mole recipe. Well, judging by the variances among these recipes, some of these abuelas, or those claiming to have an abuela, are full of caca.
There are also a seemingly endless number of varieties of mole: black, red, yellow, green. Some have raisins, some have pumpkin seeds. All seem to take a very long time to prepare. Very few mole dishes that I read about actually stewed the meat in the mole sauce (ok, actually now that I go back and try to find the link to the recipes that did, I can’t find them. I think I just made that up). The sauce is typically just poured over the top of the protein prior to serving…. But that wouldn’t be in line with our chili rules, so I stuck with the idea of cooking the meat in the mole (or rather, I just made up that idea. Apparently it was some sort of hallucination brought on by too much mole research…did I mention that some recipes use booze?).
I appreciate how complex mole recipes can be. At times, cooking truly becomes an art or a skilled craft. Knowing which ingredients to add into the mix, and at what times during cooking, or knowing how to prepare each ingredient in a particular way to coax out the flavors you are after prior to adding it to the dish… well, it really takes some know-how. I have experimented with moles in the past and have come up with a few “must dos” that I’ve found are consistent among the supposed “abuela’s authentico” recipes:
- Use something sweet (brown sugar, ripe plantain, molasses, honey, raisins, etc)
- Use something spicy (dried chilis, canned chilis, roasted chilis- for this recipe, all three!)
- Use something nutty (pine nuts, sesame seeds, peanuts, cashews, etc)
- Use something tangy (vinegar or citrus)
You cannot only get creative with which ingredients you choose from each category, but also on how you layer them as you cook. This chili involves a few stages of prepping ingredients prior to throwing them into the pot: pan frying dried chilis, onions and garlic; roasting poblanos (for tips on this, visit our Chili Con Queso page); toasting peanuts. If you are not a crafty sort of person, I wouldn’t recommend attempting anything mole-ish. You’ll hate it. It’s a lot of work. But for those up for the skill challenge, it’s rewarding, it’s fun, and it’s something you can experiment with to truly make your own. And then someday you can post your recipe online and claim it came from your abuela
FYI: One of my good friends from college once claimed me as her honorary abuela because of how I would cook for her. Both of us are in our 30s. Neither of us are Mexican. But somehow, it made sense…. Abuelas carry true culinary cred!
Prepare 6 dried chili de arbols and 4 dried guajillo chilis by removing the seeds and stems. Prepare 2 poblano peppers by roasting, peeling, and removing the stems and seeds.
In a large pan, fry the prepared dried chilis, 1 medium white onion (roughly chopped), 5 cloves of garlic (peeled), and ½ cup of raw, unsalted peanuts in 2 ½ T of bacon grease or lard. Cook until the onions turn translucent or slightly golden. Remove from heat and let cool. Then, place all ingredients in a large blender jar along with 4 cups of vegetable broth, the prepared poblanos, and one 7 oz can of chipotles (they will come packed in a sauce called adobo- strain off the sauce before adding to the blender to prevent this from becoming too spicy). Thoroughly blend until smooth.
In a large pot over medium heat, evenly place 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a single layer. Sprinkle over the thighs 1 T ground cumin, 2 T brown sugar, 2 t ground cinnamon, 2 t dried oregano, 1 t ground cloves, ½ t black pepper, and 2 t salt. Pour the blended ingredients over the top and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour.
After an hour, stir the content of the pot with a sturdy wooded spoon, breaking up the chicken thighs as much as possible. Add in ½ cup of peanuts that have been toasted (use a dry pan, over medium heat and stir constantly until the peanuts start to darken) and finely chopped or roughly ground, ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, and one 6 oz can of tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes.
Prior to serving, stir in 3.5 oz of dark chocolate until it is well combined into the chili.
Ladle into a bowl and top with queso fresco (or any mild, crumbling cheese) and chopped cilantro.