Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chicken Mole and Homemade Corn Tortillas

The ugly homemade tortillas are properly shunned in the back!
Believe it or not faithful readers, there was a time when I was the biggest picky eater in the world. It was a dark time of burgers with only ketchup and cheese, tacos with only cheese (man, I probably should've used ketchup too) and pizza with the sauce removed. Mole helped me overcome my weird crippling fear of trying new things when my professor had me try some at our yearly lab Mexican dinner in college (that's what people mean by college being a time of experimentation right?). Somehow one of the strangest dishes (I mean, come on, chocolate and peanuts and peppers on meat? Maybe I was still a child at heart...) managed to win me over.

Now, many an exotic dish later, it was time to perfect a mole. Could I surpass the mediocrity of my first attempt from the beginning of my culinary self-education and properly honor the dish that holds a special place in my heart?

We're gonna need a lot of chiles.
Chicken Mole
Adapted from All Recipes
Servings: A week's worth of mole
Time: 90 minutes

4 cups chicken broth, divided
3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 roasted poblanos, stemmed and seeded
1 dried cascabel chile, stemmed and seeded
2 corn tortillas, cut into strips
2 tomatoes, cut in half
5 tomatillos, cut in half
1 tbsp butter
Oh the delightful smells.
1 onion, diced
1/2 head garlic peeled and sliced
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp anise seeds
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
5 ounces Mexican or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (if using semi-sweet)
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
Additional chicken broth 
Cotija cheese
Doesn't that just look delicious? At last, I got to pretend I was giving grool to Oliver Twist!
  1. Roast your poblanos then sweat and peel.
  2. Bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a simmer for 5 minutes and pour into a blender.
  3. Toast your chiles in a dry pan over medium heat until aromatic (about 3 minutes). Transfer to the broth.
  4. Toast the tortilla strips until lightly browned and add to the blender.
  5. Let the mix absorb for 10 minutes then blend until smooth. 
  6. Blacken the tomatoes and tomatillos in a dry skillet over medium-hot heat for about 3-5 minutes per side until soft. Add to the blender.
  7. Saute the onion, garlic, peanuts, raisins, cumin, thyme, anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice in butter over medium heat.
  8. Remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice and add the rest to the blender (unless you have an industrial sized blender, you'll probably have to pour half of it out first). Blend until smooth.
  9. Pour the sauce into a large pot over medium heat. Melt in the chocolate (and cinnamon if you can't find Mexican chocolate), final 1-2 cups chicken broth, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and let reduce.
  10. Sear your chicken in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side. Cover with additional broth and cook for 25-30 minutes until done.
  11. Top chicken with mole sauce, crushed peanuts, cotija cheese, cilantro and diced onions.
Chocolate, veggies and meat: Together at last!
Now this is the mole I was longing for. Everything was in an incredible balance keeping all the powerful components from becoming overwhelming and providing a significant improvement from my previous overly tomatoey version. Whether it was on the tender chicken, tortilla chips or Mexican rice, the mole added a ton of flavor. My only real recommendation is to make sure you add some crunch to the dish with diced onion or extra peanuts.

Let's be honest, it just doesn't seem right unless it's in convenient taco form.
As much as I'd like to pretend that my eating tastes have become fancified, I really just wanted to eat this as the taco that my heart desired. Having a tortilla definitely made the meal seem far more complete. Seeing how I don't know how to do things simply, I just had to make my own corn tortillas (for the first time, while doing a bunch of other things. What could possibly go wrong?!).

Corn Tortillas
Adapted from The Lean Green Bean
Servings: 8-10 tortillas
Time: 40 minutes

1 cup masa 
1/2-3/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of half a lime
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
I'm like the best at clean edges.
  1. Mix the masa, hot water, salt, lime juice and jalapeno together in a bowl until a workable dough forms.
  2. Shape into a ball and knead several times.
  3. Form a ball again and cover tightly in saran wrap. Let sit for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Flatten the dough between two sheets of saran wrap using a rolling pin or a tortilla press (buy a tortilla press they're super cheap and way more effective). Carefully peel off the saran wrap.
  5. Cook over medium-high heat in a skillet for 1 minute per side until the tortilla begins to puff up.
  6. Keep warm in an oven at 200 F until done.
The taco folded without breaking! Success!
My first attempt at making my own tortillas was a bit of a mixed bag. I overdid it on the masa after my initial dough was too sticky. Also, my decision to add jalapeno for flavor backfired as it severely hindered the ability to roll out thin tortillas without tearing. While they did properly fold for taco delivery effectiveness, I definitely would've been better off with store bought.
    I desperately need the new house kitchen.
    Despite some tortilla related failings, the overall meal (completed with Mexican rice and black beans) was exactly what I needed for my standard Saturday cooking adventure. More importantly, it reminded me that I can't wait to have everyday access to the new house's kitchen and all of its glorious space.

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