We eat a lot of Mexican-inspired foods in my house. And much of the inspiration comes from a few of my favorite celebrity chefs; chief among them Pati Jinich, star of the PBS show Pati’s Mexican Table. I have watched Chef Jinich for years now, and what I love best about her is her story. She didn’t start out as a culinary star; she was a political analyst, of all things, with a Masters from Georgetown! But her love for her homeland, its rich culture and its unique cuisine brought her back to what was truly her calling.
One of my favorite seasons of Pati’s Mexican Table was the one in which Chef Jinich takes us all on a guided tour of Oaxaca, Mexico, immersing us in the people, history, celebrations, family life and foods of this amazingly beautiful region. Someday I will get there, I hope. But until then, I will treasure my place at Pati’s TV table.
And it was this season-six excursion into the ways food had a huge role in a country’s history, cooking and celebrations that first gave me the idea of trying my hand at a mole. Mole, I learned, is like a family’s or region’s fingerprint. While commonalities among various standard types of mole exist, this is usually a recipe handed down from generation to generation, guarded and revered by everyone around the dinner table.
So I was a little unsure I could pull it off—I mean, most moles are all about meat, after all, with main ingredients like from-scratch chicken stock and fresh lard. Further, I’m not one bit Mexican, and I had a terrible fear of insulting a whole country and Chef Jinich with my amateur attempt. But what is the Green Gal motto? Yep: Be brave in the kitchen. And I think Chef Jinich would be right there with me on that. She is nothing if not brilliantly brave. So I dug in, researching and testing and finally coming up with a Green Gal mole that honors the farmers and the food of my region, with a significant nod south of the border, just as traditional Mexican moles honor the people of Oaxaca.
Warning: this is a long read. I divided my mole sauce preparation and the presentation of my chicken and pork moles into three days. Was it worth it? Well, even I—the vegetarian—tasted my finished sauce (lard and all!) and had to admit it was pretty darn good—balanced, rich and complex. Then my diners—one set for chicken mole and one set for pork mole—gave the final verdict: delicioso!
Any mole takes patience and time, regardless of whose recipe you use. It’s meant to be a true creation—a work of art, if you will. So pick a couple of days you can spend quality time in the kitchen and create your own masterpiece. Here’s my version…
So there you have my Green Gal version of mole. I know it is a lot of work, but it is worth it, I promise. And don’t stick to what I’ve done—be brave! Let your mole define you!
Homemade Chicken Stock
If you are looking for a good from-scratch chicken stock, try the following from the Culinary Institute of America. I’ve adjusted the quantities for home kitchen, but you will still end up with about a gallon of stock—enough for the mole sauce and both the meat dishes I prepared. What you don’t use, you can freeze or gift to your friends, Next time you’re in the mood for mole, you’ll already be that much ahead. Give it a go! You can also see my use of a Joy of Cooking chicken stock recipe from an earlier post for Chicken and Dumplings.
- One large chicken, about 4 pounds. The original recipe calls for stewing hens—older chickens that would be too tough for other purposes. But I wanted to use the chicken to create my first mole dish, so I opted for a roasting hen that was pleasingly plump from The Family Garden. (Be sure to check out my visit to Jackie Mills’ farm that is part of my posts this month.)
- One gallon filtered water
- Sea salt, about one tablespoon (added a little at a time so your stock can be adjusted to taste)
- One medium onion, chopped
- Two carrots, chopped
- Four or five ribs of celery, plus any nice leaves, chopped
- One large ripe red tomato, chopped
- Herb sachet: parsley, bay leaf, black peppercorns, fresh thyme sprigs and one large garlic clove
- Wash the chicken well under cold water. Remove the heart, liver and neck, and include this in the stock, if you wish
- Immerse the chicken in the water, add some salt and bring to a steady simmer. Watch your pot and skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface of the water. Continue this process about two hours.
- Add all the vegetables and continue simmering for 30 minutes.
- Add the herb sachet and simmer 30 minutes more.
- Remove the chicken from the stock pot and place on a large platter to cool a bit. Remove all the vegetable matter and the sachet. Strain the stock and store in glass jars. You should have about six to eight good-sized jars of stock. Once they’ve cooled down a bit, store in the frig for up to one week. Freeze the stock you are not planning to use right away.
- Place the slightly cooled chicken in a covered dish and store the frig. Use within four or five days or freeze.
The hard parts of this Mexican extravaganza are now behind you! Making the following two dishes is a snap. So if you are celebrating, you can direct most of your attention to other matters.
Green Gal Chicken Mole
- One large roasting chicken, fully cooked and deboned, leftover from the stock
- Two and one-half to three cups mole
- One to two cups reserved chicken stock, depending how thick or thin you want your sauce
Place the deboned chicken, mole and stock in a large chef’s skillet or Dutch oven. Bring to full simmer; then, reduce to low heat and let the chicken get acquainted with the mole until dinner time. I would suggest at least an hour.
That’s it! Goes great with rice or pasta. Serves 8 to 10, easily.
A little note of thanks here to Blaine Bilyeu, without whom neither the mole nor this dish would be possible. My snowy white lard and tender pork shoulder roast are from Papa’s Pasture—the ONLY place we buy our pork. Also, I used my slow cooker to finish off this dish. It created a wonder finish, but you could cook this just as I did the chicken in the recipe above by simply simmering it in a large skillet, if you wish. My suggestion, however, is the slow cooker, if you can.
- One three- to four-pound pork shoulder roast, bone in or out—up to you and your butcher
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Three to four cups mole
- One cup chicken stock
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Salt and pepper the shoulder roast to taste. Place it on a roasting rack that is situated in a large roasting pan (might want to cover that pan with foil for easier cleanup).
- Roast until you get an internal temperature of about 180 degrees. This is slightly under what you would normally want, which would be 185, but you are going to finish this roast off in the slow cooker, so it’s best to be a bit underdone going in. Same is true if you are finishing the mole on the stovetop. Roasting time for my recipe was about two and a half hours.
- Once the roast has reached 180 degrees, take it out of the oven and wrap tightly in foil for about 30 minutes, allowing it to rest and the juices to redistribute. Then, carve it into cubes and place in the slow cooker.
- Add the mole and enough stock to get it to a consistency you want. Remember that the slow cooker will create liquid, so maybe go easy on the stock at first. You can check it later and always add more.
- Cook the mole on low for about five to six hours. This is also a great dish to serve with rice, pasta or polenta. Serves 8-10, as well.
And a final word from Delicious Living Magazine about chocolate, which is a must-use ingredient in every mole recipe I read about. DL offers you some sound advice on how chocolate is good for you and also not so good for you. The kind that is truly “healthy” has no fillers—like sugar, oils and dairy. It is at least 85 percent cacao and has been minimally processed. Just what you want for your mole, as well as your health.