Introduction: Baked Chicken With Mole Sauce

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I don't normally enjoy chicken mole in a restaurant - it's either too spicy, too bitter, too chocolatey, or too. . . runny and gross-looking for me.  Making it at home allows me to control the proportions of chocolate, spice, and sweet to come up with the perfect balance. 

This recipe uses a few shortcuts to make mole sauce easier than you've ever dreamed of.  No need to brown the chicken beforehand, almond butter means no grinding nuts, and smoked, dried peppers ensure lots of depth of flavor without having to roast them at home.  Plus the sauce can be made for up to three days in advanced and used on a variety of meats and veg.

If you've never heard of mole (mo-lay), then you're in for a real treat.  While the term refers to many different styles of sauces in Mexico and Spain, this recipe is modeled after mole poblano, a reddish brown sauce employing ancho chiles, chipotle, dark chocolate, almonds, raisins, and sesame seeds.  It can be made as spicy, bitter, chocolatey, or sweet as you desire just by tweaking the proportions!

Step 1: Materials

Hardware:
baking dish
sharp knife - this one's my favorite for its durability and affordability!
liquid measuring cup
saute pan
food processor or blender
instant read thermometer - I love this one, for the same reasons as the knife!

Software:
  • 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kg) bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts, legs, and/or thighs), skin removed
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 ounce bittersweet, semisweet, or Mexican chocolate, chopped coarse
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (473 mL) chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5oz / 411g) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup (50g) raisins
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup (61g) almond butter
  • Salt and pepper

Step 2: Make the Mole Sauce

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Brush ancho chiles clean and place on baking sheet.  Toast in the oven about 5 mintues - they'll get all puffy and big!  Remove the chiles from the oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and crackle/chop into small pieces.

Add oil to a skillet and heat over medium.  Add minced onion and cook until just soft, 5-7 minutes. 

Stir in toasted chile pieces, ground spices, and chocolate, stirring, until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 sec. 

Stir in broth, tomatoes, raisins, sesame seeds, and almond butter and cook for 10 minutes. 

Transfer mixture to food processor or blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sauce can be used immediately or stored and refrigerated for up to 3 days. 

Step 3: Bake the Chicken

Turn the oven up to 400F (205C). 

Dry the chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper on all sides. 

Place chicken pieces in shallow dish or baking sheet.  Cover with mole sauce, turning to coat evenly.

Bake for 35-45 minutes.  Check temperature with instant read thermometer.

Internal temperature of cooked chicken should be 160F (71C) for white meat, 170F (77C) for dark meat.

Tent with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes. 

Serve with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.


Enjoy!

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