Mole Verde Querétaro

wpid-img_20140612_131000.jpgMaking mole is not difficult, only a little laborious. This fruity green mole is rich-tasting and complex, but light and a very healthy and versatile sauce.

Adapted from: Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen © 1996 Scribner

Serves 8 easily with about 8 cups of mole

½ pound (3 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles

12 ounces (8 to 9 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed

½ cup sesame seeds, plus some extra for garnish

½ cup whole blanched almonds

½ cup roasted peanuts, skinless

1 small soft-ripe plantain (very black is good), peeled and sliced ½ inch thick

1 corn tortilla (stale is ok), torn into pieces

2 large garlic cloves

½ cup raisins (golden raisins are preferred to preserve the color of the sauce)

1 large leaf of romaine lettuce

8 large sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, plus a few extra for garnish

½ teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela

½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground

A scant ½ teaspoon anise seeds, preferably fresh ground

A big pinch cloves, preferably freshly ground

5 cups chicken broth, plus a little more if needed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt, about 2 teaspoons, depending on the saltiness of the broth

8 small (2 to 2 ½ pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed

or about 2 pounds of peeled and cleaned jumbo shrimp

1.    Roasting, toasting and browning.

Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame, about 4 minutes each side for the broiler. Place chiles in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Remove charred skin and pull out the stem and seed pod. Briefly rinse off bits of skin and seeds; roughly chop them and place in a large work bowl.

Roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet 6 inches below the broiler until softened and a little brown on one side, about 3 minutes, then turn them over and roast the other side. (We do not blacken them here so the sauce will be more green). Transfer the tomatillos (including all juices) to the bowl with the chiles.

Heat a small skillet over medium and add the sesame seeds. Stir nearly continually until golden and aromatic, 2 to 4 minutes. Scrape in with the chile mixture, then toast the almonds in the same manner (they will roast a little irregular and take 2 to 4 minutes), scrape them in with the sesame.

2.    Finishing the mole.

To the bowl with the growing pile of ingredients, add the plantain, tortilla, garlic, raisins, peanuts, romaine, parsley, cinnamon, pepper, anise seed and cloves. Stir in 2 cups of the broth, then in a blender, in batches, process to a very smooth puree (if you have a commercial style VitaMix blender, you can do this in one batch), press batches of puree through a mesh strainer into a bowl.

Set a medium-sized (4-quart) pot (such as a Dutch oven or a Mexican cazuela) over medium heat and measure in the oil. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once. Stir for 3 or 4 minutes, as the mixture sears and thickens. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of broth, partially cover the pot, and gently simmer over medium-low, stirring regularly, for about 30 minutes to allow the variety of flavors to come into harmony. At this point, the sauce should have the consistency of a thick cream soup. Taste and season with salt.

 3.    The chicken

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish with some of the mole, lay in the chicken breasts in a single layer, then ladle enough sauce over them to generously cover them. Save extra sauce, if any, for another use. Bake until chicken is just done, 20 – 30 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter. Stir the sauce to incorporate any accumulated chicken juices, then add a little more broth if necessary, to give the sauce the consistency of a light cream soup. Ladle the mole over the chicken, sprinkle with a few sesame seeds and decorate with parsley.

** if you decide to use shrimp, prepare on the stovetop instead. Bring the mole to a low simmer, then add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook for about 4 minutes, then turn the shrimp over for another 3 (this will depend on the size of the shrimp, of course)

Advance preparation: The mole can be made several days ahead through step 2; cover and refrigerate. Bake the chicken in the sauce shortly before serving. The mole also freezes successfully

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