Holy Mole

February 9, 2009

Not the oft heard exclamation by the Captain Marvel characters of yore—rather the supremely complex gastronomic gem of Mexico. The depth, breadth, and height of the aromas, flavors and textures of that fine fusion called mole are nearly unsurpassed, almost religious.

Showing the patience and imagination of creating a superbly complex mole is what real lovers do on V Day. Due to the number of ingredients alone, it is crucial that all things be mise en place before you begin the mole ritual.

MOLE POBLANO WITH CHICKEN

6 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
4 dried anaheim chilies, stemmed and seeded
4 dried chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/4 C golden raisins (sultana)

1/4 C whole almonds
1/4 C sesame seeds
1 t whole black peppercorns
1 t coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
1 t dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves plump garlic, peeled and chopped
2 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
6 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded or 1 14 oz marzano peeled, canned tomatoes
2 ounces fine bittersweet chocolate (85% cocoa), chopped

1 organic, free range chicken, cut into 10 pieces
2 limes, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 C chicken stock
Sea salt

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 lime, juiced
Cilantro

Roughly cut the ancho, anaheim, and chipotle chiles into large pieces and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Put them into a bowl with the raisins and cover them with hot water. Soak until softened, about 30 minutes.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the almonds, coriander, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, oregano, and thyme—one kind at a time. Toast for 2 minutes, grind in a spice grinder, and add the powder to a blender. In the same skillet over medium high heat add the olive oil, onions, garlic, and serrano. Cook until lightly browned, then add the tomatoes. Cook until all are softened, about 10 minutes, then add to the blender. Add the chocolate and the soaked chilies and raisins to the blender along with some of the chile soaking liquid. Purée, adding more of the soaking liquid as needed, to make a smooth sauce.

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with lime juice. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and brown the chicken on all sides; remove the browned chicken to a plate leaving the oil in the pan.

Pour 2 cups of the mole sauce into the hot skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and return the chicken pieces to the pan. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the onion and radish slices into a bowl. Add the lime juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt. Mix well and serve with the chicken.

Serve over cooked white rice. Garnish with cilantro.

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Mise (En Place)

January 15, 2009

Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks.
~Lin Yutang

This modest quest was born of the reflections of a common cook, a layperson (non-expert) roaming the kitchen.

Sharing my journeys with you from market to kitchen to plate is meant to inspire, dispel misconceptions, quell unfounded fears and place confidence in your hands. Just cook and embrace, saporously so. As food is a basic human need, why not make it exquisitely pleasing to the palate, even creative? It only makes sense that the modest art of cooking should be rewarded by the divine art of eating. Because, face it, sometimes we simply want to eat.

The recipes that follow are only meant to suggest and are by no means a mandate. Plus, to assume there exists only one species of a dish can often be folly — many classics are flat protean with almost as many versions and descents as there are kitchens.

This site is not a harbor for what some have dubbed arrogant food even though that finds a deserved place in other kitchens and written or online works. Humble, rustic and eclectic fare may be more appropriate words here…or perhaps just love what sates you at the time.

Because a meal is simple does not render it any less savory or elegant. Here, there is no need for formal training or experience, yet an inquisitive, inventive character and passion for food may serve you well. Together through recipes and basic techniques, we will explore some of the varied facets of food and along the way visit some culinary lore, history, science, culture, art, geography, language — and even meander through a few fond memories.