It just doesn’t make any sense. A sauce with a crazy combo of ingredients – ancho chiles; raisins; tomatoes; almonds. Oh Yes – and chocolate!
“Mole” is often called “the Curry of Mexico,” and with good reason. No one makes mole exactly the same, but most moles have common themes: delightful yet odd combination of ingredients. ((NOTE: I am decidedly not opposed to weird ingredients: I have even made a delicious mole with pumpkin seeds and radish leaves!)) Take for example, the most well known mole, Mole Negro: nuts, raisins, chiles and chocolate. That sounds like a desperate combo using up odds and ends from a Mexican pantry, but results in a unique, silky smooth texture with the perfect twist of spices and heat.
Sandy and I were lucky enough to go to the Santa Fe Cooking School a while ago, and we ate at a world famous southwest restaurant: The Coyote Cafe. I order the chicken mole and was in heaven. I MUST MAKE THIS, I pledged. But then, I bought the cookbook, turned to the mole recipe and nearly fainted – so many ingredients and a lots of work.
Then, I came across Rick Bayless’ recipe for mole that promised it was “EASY.” And by this I mean only a dozen or so ingredients and a few minutes prep time. I had no choice. I had to try this recipe. I simplified this recipe even more. The one thing I did not omit is the toasting of the almonds and chiles first – this adds an incredible deep, rich taste.
This mole is shockingly good, considering it only takes about 20 minutes of prep time total. It is rich. It is sweet. It is spicy. It is flavor-packed. And, it tastes amazingly close to the Coyote Cafe’s mole extraordinaire.
Try this on a cold wintery day (Ahem, like where I live!) and the smell alone will penetrate right to your bones. And the taste, well. . . words do not suffice. Put this on your “must try” list this winter.
- EASY SLOW COOKER MOLE
- - serves 12 with about 2 quarts of sauce (you’ll have leftovers) -
- Adapted from Fiesta at Rick’s by Rick Bayless
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus a little more if necessary
- 3 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) slivered almonds
- 4 ounces raisins (about 1/2 cup)
- One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
- 1 ounce (about 1/4 of a 3.3 ounce tablet) Mexican chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- A little honey if needed to balance bitterness
- About 2 quarts chicken broth
- 1. Prepare the mole base: Heat oil in a large skillet to medium high heat. Add the chiles and almonds. Stir slowly and continually until the chiles are thoroughly toasted (the interior of each piece will become lighter in color) and the almonds have taken on a creamy color and toasty aroma—about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, raisins, tomatoes (with their juice), spices, chocolate. Cook until the tomato juices are reduced and quite thick, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water, a little honey and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. When the liquid comes to a simmer, transfer the crock to the slow cooker (or scrape the mixture into your slow-cooker). Cook on low for 6 hours. After 6 hours most of the liquid will be reduced to a glaze. The mixture can hold for several hours on the slow cooker’s “warm” setting.
- 2. Finish the mole: Scrape every bit of the mole base into a bowl, then scoop half of it into a blender jar. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, cover and blend until as smooth as possible—for most household blenders this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the slow-cooker’s cooking crock and press the mole base through it. Repeat with the remainder of the mole base. Stir in 3 cups more chicken broth. Simmer in the slow-cooker for 2 hours or so on high. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a cream soup, stir in a little more of the broth. Taste and season with additional salt (usually about 1 teaspoon) and sugar (usually 2 to 3 tablespoons).
Cook chicken as desired – grilled or browned in a skillet – and then simmer the chicken in the mole for about the last hour in the slow cooker.
Serve with rice to soak up all the sauce.