Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mole Verde Zacatecano

I have reminisced in the past about moles, those wonderful sauces that are most commonly associated with Mexican cuisine.  Three Mexican States lay claim to the origin of the mole ... Oaxaca, Puebla and Tlaxcala.  However, moles have come an integral part of not just the cuisine of these three states, but also other Mexican states, including the central Mexican State of Zacatecas.

Zacatecas lacks many of the resources of other Mexican states, which is reflected in Zacatecan cuisine.  For example, the moles of Oaxaca or Puebla may have more than a dozen, wideranging ingredients.  By contrast, the moles of Zacatecas are far more minimalist.  These moles use only a handful of ingredients, most of which are relatively common, such as cilantro, tomatillos, onions, and jalapenos.

For these reasons, a Zacatecan mole provides a good starting point for a cook like myself.  My goal, at some point in the future, is to make the seven moles of Oaxaca.  However, before undertaking such a challenge, I need some practice.  There is no better way to practice than with a simplified version of the mole.  Not only did this dish teach me about the ingredients and processes used to make a mole, but it reminded me that oftentimes, something simple can be just as delicious, if not more, than a complicated dish. 

Adapted from
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the Chicken):
3–4-lb. whole chicken, cut into 4-8 pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro stems
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf

Ingredients (for the Mole):
8 oz. tomatillos, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 8″ flour tortillas, toasted
3 tbsp. canola oil

1. Cook the chicken.   Place the chicken, along with the cilantro, salt, peppercorns, garlic, onion, bay leaf, and twelve cups water, in a 6-qt. saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about thirty minutes.

2.  Reserve the cooking liquid.  Remove chicken from saucepan and strain liquid through a fine strainer; reserve 4 cups, and save remaining liquid for another use. Set chicken and liquid aside.

3.  Begin the mole.  Heat tomatillos and jalapeños in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened and thick, about ten minutes. Transfer to a blender with cilantro, salt, garlic, tortillas, and one cup reserved cooking liquid; puree.

4. Continue to make the mole.  Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add tomatillo sauce and fry, stirring constantly, until it thickens into a paste, about five minutes. Whisk in remaining cooking liquid and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until reduced and thickened, about thirty minutes.

5.  Finish the dish and plate.  Add chicken pieces and cook until heated through, about ten minutes. Serve with Mexican rice and tortillas.


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