Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ole` Mole

Wow.  That title was too hokey even by my standards.  I must have had too much to drink on New Year's Eve.

We are now heading into that dreaded time my husband calls "The Dog Days of Winter."  Although the days are lengthening, they're still rather short and all too often they're very cold.  I'm not a winter lover at all.  It's particularly tough on people like me because I have a year-round, outdoor hobby that keeps me out in the cold on weekends for hours at a time.  As much as I love being with my horses, on some cold winter days I just want to stay home with blankets, a good book, and some comforting beverages (they can be of the chocolate or the alcoholic variety).   It's rough being out there with chilled fingers and toes feeling the warmth get sucked out of your every pore every time you breathe!

This time of year is when everyone starts talking about "comfort foods" - foods that are warm, heavy, take a long time to prepare from scratch, and fill us up quickly.  Examples of this might be big pans of homemade macaroni and cheese or lasagne, enormous pots of chili, loaves of butter-soaked homemade bread, soups lovingly prepared with homemade stock, or slow-cooked stews. 

I have said numerous times on this blog that I tend to eat what I eat when I want to eat it.  I'm not always so perfectly attuned to the seasons when I cook.  I think part of my lack of attention to typical cold weather foods is that so many of them are heavy and starchy and I fear of gaining weight.  Then there is the issue that some of them are cheesey or beefy and I can't serve them to my husband.  As much as I like to say it's about being weird or cynical or rebellious, some of it is just being practical.  I don't cook many stereotypical comfort foods because I feel I shouldn't be cooking them for health reasons, or because if I modified them, it would ruin exactly what makes them comfort foods in the first place.

Anyway, this blog has begun to chronicle a kind of change in attitudes in the past year or two.  I have actually begun to experiment more with stews and braises.  I find these types of recipes enormously fun to play with and as warm and satisfying as they are purported to be.

Obviously I braise a lot of chicken, so today's recipe will be a braised chicken.  I learned the secret to making my husband be more receptive to braised chicken recipes.  When I make chicken I prefer to use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (although I like skinless, boneless thighs when I need to cook something quickly).  I like them because they are flavorful and more succulent than boneless, skinless varieties.  Sir Pickypants doesn't like fussing with bones.  He doesn't like having to work too hard for his food.  When he was less than enthused about my coq au vin, his main complaint was that he had this giant, messy chicken breast to contend with.  It was too much work to cut around the bones.  (He's not a pick-it-up-and-stick-your-face-on-it type.)

I solve the problem quite easily now.  I just cut the breast meat, skin and all, off the bone before cooking.  It's easier for him to eat, but the flavor is still there.  It also takes a bit less time to cook.  The bones go into the freezer for future use in stock.  It's a win-win situation.

Even before the attempt at coq au vin I made an attempt at mole verde sauce.  I invented a recipe after cobbling together a few ideas I saw on the internet.  It involved toasting and grinding seeds of all sorts and long slow cooking and more effort than it was worth considering it was another dish Sir Pickypants poo pooed.  I really liked it, but I never saved my recipe for it.  I decided there wasn't much point.

I've been craving something slow-cooked and fragrant with sweet spice lately. Now that I learned the secret to making my husband like whole chicken pieces, I have decided to try a mole sauce again.  This is a more straight-up version than the green one I made previously.  It still a ridiculous amount of effort as well, but it's so perfect on a winter night. 

It was less sweet and a little spicier than I orginally intended, but after I ate the first serving, I realized just how addicitive this sauce is.  Worth the effort after all.

A-Lot-of-Work-But-It's-Worth-It Chicken Mole

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up (breasts removed from bone if desired)
  • 6 large dried chili peppers of your choice, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbl sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbl cocoa powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbl olive oil for frying
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
Place chili peppers in a small bowl. Add the boiling water. Allow to soak for about 30 minutes. In a blender or food processor puree the peppers with about a cup of the soaking liquid.

Toss the pumpkin seeds and 1/2 cup sesame seeds with the cumin, cocoa, cinnamon and chili powder.  Place them in a shallow pan over low heat and toast until everything is very fragrant - almost to the brink of burning.  You will have to trust your nose as the spices will keep you from seeing how the seeds are browning.  Place in a food processor or other grinding device and grind into a rough powder.

Meanwhile sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a pan and brown the chicken well on both sides.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add the pureed peppers and the tomatoes to the pan, breaking up the tomatoes with  your hands. Mix well. Allow to simmer for a minute or two.  Season with additional salt to taste.

Place the chicken back in the pan and simmer for about an hour. 

Serve chicken sprinkled with remaining 2 Tbl sesame seeds.


bellini said...

My word for the new year is participate so I would love to participate in recreating this is in my kitchen.

Bunny said...

My husband really doesn't complain to much about what I make for dinner. If he's not to excited about it , he'll tell me that ...this would be good every couple of months or so. LOL!! Your chicken recipe is one im sure he would eat any time!

Sue said...

That looks really amazing and TOTALLY worth it. I think this might be your best recipe ever!

I have to take all the shells AND the tails off any shrimp that I serve. Why are men such babies?

Couldn't you take the chicken off the bone AFTER it's cooked? It's kind of messy, but then you get the benefits of the bony flavor (you know what I mean). It IS great that you actually freeze the chicken bones.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Bellini - I'd be thrilled if you did!

BUNNY! - So good to see you again. Lucky you to not have a picky husband. I have to say I have feeding mine down to a science. I know mostly what I should and shouldn't serve him, and if I fall outside the boundaries now and then, he's learned to suck it up if he wants to eat.

Sue- Yes, men are huge babies. It's funny because I'm the biggest bonesucker out there. I have been since I was a little kid.

Speaking of shrimp, one night while on vacation in VA he had ordered a shrimp platter and they were still in the shells. He was taking forever to eat them because he was trying to peel them with a knife and a fork. I said, "It's okay to peel them with your hands." I think it was a revelation for him!

I suppose I could pull the meat off the bone after cooking, but that would make an even bigger mess than eating around the bone. I'm selfish that way! :-)
So glad everyone likes this recipe so much. You have all proven to me the effort was worth it!

katiez said...

I like this..... I'm making coq au vin right now.... I totally agree about winter - I don't have horses but I do have large puppies that have to be walked and worked outside everyday.... Much rather be in front of the fire!

Rosemary said...

If you say it's worth it, I just may try it. Never made mole.

Emily said...

Oh my! This looks amazing! I've never made a mole before. Ole.