Chicken with Mock Mole Sauce of Almonds, Orange, Chocolate and Sherry is a delicious introduction to using chocolate in Mexican mole sauce. A copy of Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors was sent to me by the publishers for the purposes of an honest review. Affiliate links have been used to link to items discussed in this post.
This is another timely Mexican dish post that I think would be fabulous for Cinco de Mayo–or any other time of year. It also became relevant to Alex’s end of year Spanish language Mexican food party that I told you about. Because the teacher, with every good intention in the world, brought in jarred commercial mole negro sauce for tasting. To a group of rural Middle America kids who had never even heard the word mole, let alone tried any of the different varieties traditionally made in Mexico.
I could have cried.
I realize this seems like an extreme overreaction. But I think of myself as an ambassador of sorts when it comes to unfamiliar, often international foods and children. I have done a darn good job with my own kids. Even in this case, when every single person in the room reacted with wrinkled noses and gags (mole is strong and meant to be served with protein not eaten with a spoon, black mole is extremely bitter to our north of the border palates, and this was cheap jarred mole, nothing homemade–and it was quite spicy hot), Alex told the other kids I have made several different kinds of mole and she loved them all. But it did not matter. I saw the looks on their faces. Most of those kids are intent on not trying mole any time soon. Which is a shame.
Mole, kind of like curry in Thailand, can mean many different preparations. Almost all of them involve some combination of ground dried chile peppers, nuts, dried fruits, etc. Some have Spanish ingredients added, such as the sherry in this mole. Mole sauce can be light, dark or in between. The classic mole that many of us think of is indeed the mole negro, black from unsweetened chocolate and ground nuts and dried fruits. This particular “mock” mole is a great mole to try if you are curious about using chocolate in a mole but are not quite ready for the bitter majesty of the Oaxacan Negro. It is much less bitter and includes Spanish influences from the sherry, orange and even the almonds, an Old World nut. It is flat out delicious.
I found the basis of this recipe in Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman’s Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors, which I pretty much shamelessly begged the publisher to send me for review. And I am so glad I did! The recipes are just what it claims, a boldly flavored, internationally influenced celebration of the melting pot that American cuisine has become. There are no photographs, which is a bummer, but there are loads of recipes (250+), most of which I have bookmarked! Chicken Breasts in Coffee, Vanilla, Sundried Tomato and Currant Cream. Yum! Nori-Topped Seared Tuna with Ginger Carrot Puree! Panko-Crusted Mahi Mahi with Polynesian Mango Chutney! Bittersweet Chocolate and Espresso Butterscotch Pie in Shortbread Crust!
OK I am stopping because I am getting hungry and it is late at night.
I chose to serve this dish with a lime and cilantro rice, and I thought the acid of the lime perfectly complemented the rich mole sauce.
- 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3-4 lbs chicken pieces (I used a mix of breast and thigh, bone in and boneless)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup all natural almond butter
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (for me 4 oranges)
- 1/2 cup Amontillado dry sherry
- 2 T tomato paste (I prefer double strength)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 T ancho chile powder
- 1 cup freshly chopped cilantro, including stems
- 1 t red wine vinegar
- 1 t cider vinegar
- 1 bar (about 3.5 oz) 85% cacao chocolate
- 1/2 t Ceylon cinnamon
- cilantro-lime rice to serve
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over your chicken pieces.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. When it is shimmering, add the chicken pieces. You may want to add them in batches to prevent steaming depending on the size of your pan. Brown on both sides, about 6-8 minutes, total.
- Remove the chicken to a large bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil with the star anise. When it is roasted and fragrant, but not burned (watch it), add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and mix it in. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the almond butter, chicken stock, orange juice, sherry, tomato paste and bay leaf. Mix to incorporate. Mix in the ancho powder with a decent pinch of salt, about half teaspoon.
- Add the chicken with accumulated juices back into the pan. Cover tightly and place on the lowest heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.
- Cook for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
- In the meantime, toss the chopped cilantro with the 2 different kinds of vinegar.
- When the chicken is cooked through, remove it to a (new, clean) bowl. Add the chocolate and cinnamon to the sauce and increase the heat to medium high. Stir as the chocolate melts and the sauce simmers.
- Let it simmer briskly for 15 minutes, until it has thickened.
- Stir the chicken (once again, with accumulated juices) back into the sauce. Stir in the vinegar cilantro mixture. Taste for more salt.
- Serve with cilantro lime rice (see below for recipe).
- 2 cup uncooked basmati rice
- 2 T salt
- 1 T unsalted butter
- juice from 1 1/2 juicy limes, to taste
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the salt.
- Add the rice and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the rice is no longer crunchy.
- Drain the rice. Add the rice back into the pot. Squeeze half of one lime over the rice and add a tablespoon of butter. Tightly seal the rice and let it steam for 20 minutes.
- When the 20 minutes is up, add the juice of 1 lime and the cilantro. Toss. Add more lime juice if desired.
I received a copy of the cookbook Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors for free from the publisher for reviewing. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way beyond receiving the book for this post.
Affiliate links were used in this post, but only to link to items I would be discussing and linking to anyway.