oaxacan yellow mole

5 May

I’ve been pining to make a proper, working in the kitchen all day kind of mole for a long, long time now. But it’s just so damn daunting! It’d be one thing if yeah, the ingredient list is as long as my arm at 10 point font, but you just put it all in a blender and away you go. But no, there are also enough steps to make you cross-eyed. Yellow mole is a simpler mole. Coupled with the fact that this is adapted from my always go-to Rick Bayless’s Everyday Mexican, it’s also a totally doable and delicious mole.

Despite the simplicity of ingredients, I still somehow managed to get thwarted at the grocery store. I feel like this always happens to me. Sometimes it’s my fault and I forget to put something on my list. Other times it’s the stupid $30/pound pine nuts (which, when I went to Whole Foods later in the week, were like $33/pound there – each grocery store kept getting more and more expensive!). This time, the store just didn’t have a trace of an ingredient. The original recipe called for chayote squash. I see it every time I go to the store and have thought to buy it a dozen times. This time I put it on the list and was going to use it in this recipe! But it seemed to have vanished. Its little spot in between the summer squash and eggplant was just filled in with more summer squash and more eggplant. Gah. I used sweet potatoes instead, and I thought they were good.

Another ingredient switch I did was to use cilantro as a topper, rather than the traditional hoja santa leaves. I’m sure I could have found those at one of the Latin markets around me (and probably that blasted chayote), but I wasn’t too concerned. That may be because I’ve never had it and don’t know what I’m missing. But since cilantro was listed as an acceptable substitute, I just went with that. I love cilantro. If you can’t find tomatillos, you can use 1/2 a 14.5 ounce can of regular tomatoes – fire roasted would be best. Traditionally, this mole sauce is thickened with masa harina. Since the recipe only called for 1 tablespoon of it (though I saw others that called for way more), I didn’t feel at all bad leaving it out.

The mole sauce here could be used with a bunch of different vegetables and meats. I’d love to try it with seafood. It would be great with any seasonally appropriate vegetables, so you can switch it up as the year goes on. Also, feel free to adjust the amount of each spice after the chicken is cooked through.

oaxacan yellow mole
adapted from Rick Bayless, serves 6

4 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
4 cups chicken broth, divided
6 tomatillos, husked, washed, and quartered
1/2 small white onion, cut into 4 pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/4 teaspoon each of ground cumin, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and (optional) saffron
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 tablespoons lard, bacon grease, or olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces green beans, tops and tails broken off and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes or 2 large chayotes, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 zucchini, cut at a diagonal while rotating the zucchini 1/4 turns (it’s called Rangiri – so fancy!)
salt
coarsely chopped cilantro or fresh hoja santa leaves, torn into 1-inch pieces

1. In a small, dry pan, toast the chile pieces for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. It’s hard to see brown spots of them, since they’re so dark, so just be careful not to burn.

2. Add chiles to a blender along with tomatillos, onion, garlic, spices, oregano and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Blend until as smooth as possible.

3. In a large heavy pot, heat the fat or oil over medium-high heat. Holding a medium-mesh strainer over the pot, pour in the chile mixture. With the back of a spoon, press the mixture through the strainer until as little liquid as possible is left . Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick like tomato paste, about 7 minutes.

4. Add the remaining 3 cups broth into the chile mixture. Stir until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the chicken, green beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer gently, stirring regularly, for about 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sweet potatoes are tender. Adjust salt and spices to your taste.

5. Serve and top cilantro or hoja santa.

I tried to post this in time for Cinco de Mayo, but couldn’t do it in a timely fashion. Just continue the celebration into the weekend!

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