A few years back I travelled to Tucson to stay with a friend and then boss of mine, Kath, to her lovely home there. (Yes.. that’s a weird combination but we managed it fine.)
That she shared my madness about food (she spend 5 hours browsing an international supermarket with me!! Of course I bought any ingredient that didn’t look familiar to me) meant that we could go grazing on all kinds of food. We had an amazing time checking out the local loot. Each meal was a food festival.. I would pour over the menu as if our PhD thesis depended on it, Kath would suggest a few dishes, I would express curiosity over the rest and then we would order more or less everything that each restaurant served, the waiters would be aghast and watch in amazement as we spent hours eating a bit of everything…starting with desert. That was the routine everywhere.
Except in one place. When we planned and planned and prepared ourselves mentally to eat Mole. This was to be a ceremony. We didn’t eat out the whole day, we took Bill (Kath’s husband) along, we went in, sat down and DIDNT even look at the menu. We knew what we wanted. Chicken Mole. That was my initiation.
Mole is essentially a mexican chocolate and chilli sauce, meant to be served with meat dishes. And bizzare though that sounds (Atul declared that even though these were his two favourite things, he surely wasnt going to eat this project of mine) its actually a brilliant combination. Frankly, I think mole tastes better over enchiladas than over roasted chicken which seems to be the more popular combination. Either ways, it’s definitely much nicer than expected.
This recipe took me a long time to arrive at and almost as long to put together here in Mumbai. To be fair there were a few breaks in the middle..visiting the old landlord, falling into the misleadingly pretty but in reality marshy Powai lake, walking about barefoot in Andheri, begging a wholesale chilli seller to let me have a tiny bit (and not a kilo each) of every kind of chilli he had in his shop).. what do I say..it was an eventful day! The recipe took in a full list of 31 ingredients, and was a lot of fun to put together. To any Indian cook, the techniques may actually feel familiar but the aromas are arresting and the colour of the chillies and chocolate.. absolutely seductive. I substituted a few ingredients from the original recipe but am confident that the result is fairly close to what you would eat in a restaurant (at least in Tuscon).
The sauce is a velvety chocolaty, sweet and spicy emulsion that adds totally new character to chicken and tortilla. Hung curd is one of my favourite substitutes for sour cream and works amazingly well in the tortilla. Hope you like this one…
Serves: Serves 6-8
- Dried and deseeded red chillies (ask your grocer for the ones that are the least spicy) - 12
- Almonds - ¼ cup
- Sunflower seeds - ¼ cup
- Raisins - ¼ cup
- Peanuts - 2 Tbsp
- Red chilli seeds - 1.5 Tbsp
- Sesame Seeds - 2 Tbsp
- Star Anise - 1
- Coriander seeds - ¼ tsp
- Cloves - 5
- Cinnamon Stick - 2 inch
- Peppercorn - ½ tsp
- Oregano leaves - ½ tsp
- Thyme - 2 sprigs
- Bay leaf - 1
- Coarse maize flour - ⅛ cup
- Tomatoes scored - 2
- Onion - 1
- Garlic - 6 cloves
- Chicken - 1.2 Kgs
- Chocolate - gms
- Water - 1.5 l
- Cummin - ½ tsp
- Oregano - ½ tsp
- Bay Leaf - 1
- Garlic - 4 cloves
- Curd- 500 gms (kept overnight in a sieve over a bowl to separate the whey)
- Spring onions, chopped - 3
- Any White cheese. grated - 2 cups
- Tortillas - 6
- Flatten and Roast chilli skins on foil lined baking sheet after tossing in oil. Bake for 5-7 mins or till fragrant. Take care not to burn the chillies or your mole will be bitter. Soak the chillies in 1.5 cups warm water.
- Roast tomatoes, onions and garlic on the top shelf of the oven till browned well.
- Roast chilli seeds, sesame seeds, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and pepper in a skillet till the sesame seeds change colour. Grind and keep aside.
- Combine and roast the nuts, sunflower seeds and raisins till raisins are puffy. Grind. Add the herbs and flour. Grind again. Add the roasted vegetables and grind again till you have a smooth paste. Add the chilli water as required.
- Drain the chillies and grind them, keeping the water aside.
- Poach the chicken in water with salt and the rest of the ingredients from water to garlic. Cook till tender. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and return the bones to the stock to get the delicious chickeny flavour out of the bones and into the stock.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the chilli paste and cook till its colour deepens and the paste thickens. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook till the paste combines well. Add the spice powders and stir fry well till the paste is a thick dark paste almost the colour of chocolate. Add chocolate and chicken stock to thin the sauce till a smooth thick sauce is obtained. Season with salt and sugar as required.
- Combine the curd, shredded chicken, spring onions, grated cheese and salt.
- Soften the tortillas by microwaving it briefly till just warm. Fill the tortillas with the chicken mixture and fold over.
- Line an over proof dish with the mole sauce. place the filled tortillas and top with the rest of the mole. You can add more grated cheese on top if desired. Bake in 200C oven till cheese melts (10 -15 mins)
Serve warm out of the oven