I had 6 chicken thighs defrosted and no idea what to do with them, when I remembered the cocoa nibs that I had brought back from Hawaii. Chicken in mole sauce it was...slightly sweet, spicy and rich with a hint of chocolate in the background, served with warm tortillas, this is a beautiful, complex dish, but well worth the time it takes to make it.
Besides the cocoa nibs, I also got the chance to use the last few raisins and some Basic Tomato Sauce that was in the fridge.
This is my version of the sauce, by no means the classic mole sauce, but it makes allowances for time and for substitutions for traditional ingredients that I didn't have when I chose to make it.
Start by grinding nuts and spices to a fine powder:
2 tablespoons whole almonds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon aniseed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
Place the ground nuts and spices into a pan and dry toast them until they start to release their aromas, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Remove from the heat and set aside.
Using the same spice grinder, grind:
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs, until you have a fine powder. Set aside until needed.
On a plate, combine:
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried, ground chipotle chili
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cut the chicken thighs in half. I used:
6 boneless, skinless thighs
Rub the spices, oil and lime juice onto the chicken, making sure all surfaces are well coated.
In a hot, dry pan, brown the chicken on both sides. The olive oil in the rub is enough to prevent sticking.
Remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, with a bit of olive oil, cook:
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cook until the onion starts to soften, stirring occasionally.
When the onions are soft, add the ground almonds and spices to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce
Bring to a boil.
When the sauce starts to boil, add the chicken thighs back to the pan, so that they can finish cooking in the sauce.
1 X 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup dark raisins.
Allow the sauce to simmer with the chicken for about 30 minutes.
At this point, stir in the ground cocoa nibs, and leave the sauce to simmer for another 30 minutes, or until you can easily pull the chicken into smaller pieces using two forks.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with warm tortillas, or over rice. Garnish with toasted flaked almonds and avocado.
- When I have made mole before I have used pumpkin seeds, but only had almonds to use this time. You can use pumpkin seeds, or a combination of the two.
- Canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce can be used in the sauce, with or without the dried chipotle chilies in the rub. Adjust both according to the spice level you are comfortable with...using more or less, both or only one.
- Other fresh chilies such as ancho or pasilla can be roasted, peeled and seeded and pureed in a blender along with the chicken stock before it is added to the sauce. Again, watch the heat levels. The best thing to do is to make a paste with the roasted peppers and some of the chicken stock, and add a bit at a time, until you are happy with the heat levels. Using a variety of hot peppers adds depth to the dish.
- If you are working with fresh chilies remember to always wear gloves, never to touch your face as the oils burn intensely. Use good ventilation when roasting them, as the fumes can irritate your eyes.
- Ground cinnamon can be used to replace the cinnamon stick. A ratio of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to 1 cinnamon stick is a good guideline to work with.
- I used my cocoa nibs as I had them and wanted to try them in another dish (see the post Cocoa Nib Spiced Chicken Breast with Coconut Rice and Mango). They give the rich chocolate flavour and aroma, without adding any of the sweetness. Dark chocolate can be used instead, but use chocolate with a high cocoa content, 72% or higher. If you can buy unsweetened chocolate that is even better. Finely chop the chocolate before stirring it in.
- Fresh tomatoes or tomatillos can be used, instead of, or as well as the canned tomatoes. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes before adding them. Remove the papery skin from the outside of the tomatillos and chop them before adding them to the sauce. They add a fresh, tart note to the sauce.
- I added the raisins in whole, and allowed them to soften and break down during cooking. They can be pureed with the chicken stock before being added, but I like the burst of sweetness and texture they add when you leave them whole.
- The chicken can be left to marinate overnight, or for a few hours, with the lime juice, olive oil and spices. This will intensify the flavours.
- Use turkey or pork instead of chicken for something different.
- The sauce can be made 2 - 3 days ahead. It can also be frozen. Simply rub the chicken, sear it and add it to the sauce, simmering until the chicken is tender. You can also stir in leftover cooked chicken. The whole dish can also be frozen.
- Leftovers can be shredded and used to make tacos, wraps or pizza.