Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mole Poblano Pollo y Pepitas

     Chicken in a Classic Puebla Mole Sauce!
     Mole Paste is a Pre-Columbian native preparation that is featured in modern Mexican cuisine.  Mole Pastes originated in several regions of Mexico and they were commonly used in Aztec cuisine.  The process of using a mortar and pestle to grind a complex mixture of ingredients was prevalent in ancient Mexican culture.  The fine ground Mole Pastes could be stored for a long time and they were often used as a trade commodity.  
     The process of grinding ingredients into a Mole Paste is labor intensive.  Many traditional native Mole Pastes required two days of steady grinding with a mortar and pestle.  Obviously the amount of labor involved placed a great value on Mole Paste.  
    In modern times, a special heavy duty stainless steel grinder is used to make Mole Paste.  These machines have strong motors that enable the grinding process to go smoothly with no break downs.  If the same Mole Paste was to be made with a food processor appliance, the motor would burn out because a traditional Mole Paste is so dense.  Even the most powerful restaurant grade food processors are not strong enough to make a traditional Mole Paste.  A heavy duty steel meat grinder will grind the Mole Paste ingredients, but the finished texture will be far too coarse.  
    Some chefs make a liquid puree style Mole Sauce with water and the long list of Mole ingredients.  This can be done with a food processor and the sauce will resemble a Mole Sauce that is made with reconstituted dense paste.  Looks are deceiving, because a Mole Sauce made the liquid puree method does not have the deep rich flavor profile that a traditional reconstituted Mole Paste Sauce has.  The reason why has to do with molecular gastronomy.  Ingredients that are finely ground under pressure will readily adhere to each other on a molecular level and this causes a thorough combining of natural flavins, flavoproteins, oxidants and tannins.  On a molecular level, the nature of the individual Mole ingredients meld together as one, when the ingredients are ground under pressure with a mortar and pestle.  Temperature also contributes to how flavors combine on a molecular level.  A ground Mole Paste will retain sharper flavor profiles than a boiling puree sauce that is made with Mole ingredients.  The oxidation that occurs throughout the grinding process and aging of the Mole Paste also increases complex flavor enhancement on a molecular level.  To sum it all up, a reconstituted traditional Mole Sauce made with a Mole Paste product tastes better than a boiling liquid puree sauce that is made with Mole ingredients!  
     Mole Paste contains a high proportion of finely ground seeds.  Pine Nuts and Calabaza Seeds are the most common in a traditional Mole Paste.  In modern times, sesame seeds often take the place of native seeds.  A seed or nut paste of any kind will readily absorb large amounts of liquid.  This is why a little bit of Mole Paste goes a long way.  One tablespoon of Mole Paste will yield about 1/2 cup of rich tasting Mole Sauce, so be careful not to add too much Mole Paste to a recipe or by the time the thick sauce is thinned with extra water the yield may end up being a gallon or more!
     There are several kinds of regional Mexican Mole Pastes.  Rojo, Pipian, Poblano, Verde and Oaxacan are the most common.  Today's recipe requires Poblano Mole Paste, which is often just labeled as Mole Paste in American food markets.  Poblano Mole Paste is a Puebla style Mole that is made with a combination of about 30 ingredients, which include several kinds of dried chile pepper, nuts, seeds, local herbs and roasted cocoa beans.  Poblano Mole id a deep reddish brown color and as one can imagine, the flavor is very complex.
     In Pre-Columbian times, Morel Mushrooms were sometimes added to the list of Mole Paste ingredients.  Medicinal herbs and psychoactive seeds were sometimes part of the mixture too.  The study of traditional Mole Paste is an interesting topic that can be talked about for hours.  Tasting a traditional Mole Paste Sauce inspires thoughts of how great Pre-Columbian native cuisines must have been.  Fortunately, many ancient recipes survived in their original form after European colonization, so many of the Mesoamerican culinary traditions live on in modern Mexican cuisine.
     Frijoles Negros Refritos:
     Canned Refried Black Beans are a nice convenience.  Canned Refried Black Beans just need to be gently warmed in a sauce pot with a small amount of water. 
     Refritos Negros that are made from scratch are always best.  Follow the link to the recipe in this website if fresh Refritos Negros are preferred.
     • Frijoles Negros

     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (2 small portions)
     Escabeche is a marinated vegetable accompaniment.
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of sliced carrot in a mixing bowl.  (3/16" thick)
     Add 1/5 cup of sliced onion strips.
     Add 1/5 cup of sliced green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the escabeche in a container.
     Chill for at least 20 minutes and stir occasionally.
     Mexican Rice:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 1 1/2 cups.)
     This Mexican rice recipe variation is a bit on the bland side, because it is meant to accompany the strong flavor of the garlic sauce!
     Step 1:  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 of a cup of long grain white rice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto or achiote paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Step 3:  Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Let the rice simmer and steam for almost 20 minutes.
     When the rice is becomes tender and the liquid is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Yuca Root:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Cut a 3" long section of yuca root that is about 2 1/2" thick.
     Use a paring knife the peel off the skin.
     Step 2:  Place the piece of yuca a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the yuca root.
     Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the yuca is tender.
     Step 4:  Drain off the water and leave the yuca in the sauce pot.
     Use a fork to split the yuca open lengthwise.
     Remove the hard stem core from the center of the yuca root.
     Step 5:  Place the pot over very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Baste the yuca with the melted butter sauce.
     Keep the yuca warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Stewed Tomatillos:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (1 portion)
     This is not salsa verde!  This recipe is simply stewed tomatillos.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of tomatillos wedges in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth.
     Add enough water to barely cover the tomatillo wedges.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over medium heat.
     Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the tomatillos are very tender and most of the liquid evaporates.
     Keep the stewed tomatillos warm over very low heat.

     Mole Poblano Pollo y Pepitas:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Jars or tubs of Mole Poblano Paste are available at Mexican food markets and some grocery stores.  Sometimes this Poblano Mole Paste is just labeled with only the word "Mole."  Read the label and if Cocoa or Chocolate is listed in the ingredients and it is a deep reddish brown color, then it is the correct Mole Paste Product.
     Poblano Mole Paste is so dense, that it will be necessary to warm the container in a pot of water over low heat just so a portion can be scooped out.      
     Step 1:  Select an 8 to 10 ounce chicken breast section that has the ribs and bones attached.
     Remove the skin and trim off any excess fat.
     Cut a few scored slashes through the meat across the width of the chicken breast section.  Each cut should go all the way through the meat to the bones.  The slashes should be parallel to each other and spaced about 1/2" apart.
     Step 2:  Place the scored chicken breast on a small roasting pan with the bone side facing down.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil over the chicken.
     Lightly season the chicken breast with sea salt.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Roast till the chicken is almost fully cooked.  (About 3/4 done.)
     Remove the pan from the oven and set the chicken breast aside.
     Step 4:  Place 3 tablespoons of Poblano Mole Paste in a small sauté pan.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Place the pan over low heat.
     Stir with a whisk till the liquid warms and the Poblano Mole Paste dissolves.
     Bring the Poblano Mole Sauce to a gentle simmer.
     *The Mole Sauce will be very thin at this time.
     Step 5:  Place the partially roasted chicken breast section in the mole sauce with the meat side facing down.
     Gently simmer the chicken breast section in the sauce.  Turn the chicken breast over occasionally, so the sauce flavors the entire chicken breast.
     Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce to a medium thin consistency that can easily cling to the chicken.
     *After reducing, there should be about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sauce in the pan. 
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the Mole Poblano Chicken Breast on the front half of a plate with bone side facing down.
     Spoon about 1/3 cup of the Poblano Mole Sauce over the chicken and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Pepitas (toasted calabaza seeds) over the chicken.
     Step 7:  Place these vegetable garnishes on the back half of the plate:
     - 1 small portion of Escabeche on a bed of romaine lettuce.
     - 1 portion of Mexican Rice.
     - 1 portion of Frijoles Negros Refritos.
     - 1 portion of Stewed Tomatillos.
     - Place 1 portion of Buttered Yuca on top of the Stewed Tomatillos.
     Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
     Serve any extra Mole Poblano Sauce in a ramekin on the side.
     The deep rich flavor of Mole Poblano Chicken is delicious!  A Mexican entrée is usually a full plate of food that will not leave a guest hungry and today's recipe definitely yields one big healthy meal!

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