I had heard of Chicken Mole occasionally before attempting it. I had a vague picture of a traditional Mexican dish made with spices, tomato sauce, and – shockingly – chocolate! I had never tasted Chicken Mole before, though, and still have only eaten a limited amount of Mexican food in general. Growing up and spending the majority of my adult life in New England, I have had very little exposure to food south of Pennsylvania, haha. “Taco Night” is popular in my family and we have a fairly decent burrito place down the street, but while I can talk endlessly about the joys of Asian food – Japanese in particular – I’ll freely admit I really don’t know much at all about Mexican.
Even with my ignorance, a Chicken Mole recipe in America’s Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two instantly caught my eye. It looked savory, spicy, and – surprisingly – easy! The introduction described how traditional mole (the Aztec word for “sauce”) is time consuming and complicated, but yields superb and exotic flavor combinations. The Test Kitchen’s goal was to create a streamlined version of Chicken Mole that could be whipped up for two in about an hour. Their photo looked convincing. I decided to give it a shot.
Chicken Mole (from America’s Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two)
1 T vegetable oil
1 T chili powder
1 t minced canned chipotle chile*
¼ t ground cinnamon
pinch of cloves
½ oz. bittersweet, semisweet, or Mexican chocolate; chopped coarse
1 garlic clove, minced
1¼ C low-sodium chicken broth
1 tomato; cored, seeded, and chopped medium
2 T raisins (I omitted these out of preference)
1 T peanut butter
1 T sesame seeds, toasted, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper
2 12 oz. bone-in split chicken breasts, skin removed, trimmed
*Note: I found canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce in the foreign section of the local grocery store. The source recipe specifically recommends the adobo sauce as a quick substitute for the more traditional chile mix since it adds the correct heat and smokiness without needed a complex mix of vegetables.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 400°F. Then, heat the oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes or until soft.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in chili powder, chile, cinnamon, cloves, and chocolate. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and chocolate has melted. Be careful in this step as it is easy to burn the mix. If you see this happening, the source recipe recommends adding a splash of water or broth to help cool it. I was especially careful, thanks to their note, and didn’t need the small cup of water I kept next to the stove just in case.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Stir in broth, tomato, raisins (if you choose to use them), peanut butter, and sesame seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly – about 10 minutes. By this point you should have about 2 cups of sauce.
- Use an immersion blender or transfer the sauce to a conventional blender and process until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.
- Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an 8 x 8″ square baking dish and pour the sauce over the top. Turn the chicken to coat evenly, then leave them to bake skinned-side down for 20 minutes.
- Flip the chicken so that the skinned-side is up and return the dish to the oven for another 15 – 25 minutes or until the thickest part of each breast registers 160ºF on an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the dish from the oven and loosely cover with foil. Let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with extra sesame seeds, if desired, when plating.
I shared this two-person dinner with my brother and mother alongside some Mexican rice, and we were all very satisfied. The chicken was tender and juicy (a bonus of bone-in chicken I learned from Chicken with Fennel and Tomato) and the sauce was pretty tasty. Not having ever eaten Chicken Mole before – home cooked or otherwise – I unfortunately have nothing to compare to, haha.
I did note that my sauce was a light shade of brown instead of the fiery red shown in the source recipe’s photo. My sauce also clearly tasted of peanut butter, so while I did put in exactly 1 tablespoon, I’m wondering if my organic peanut butter had more of a kick to it than a conventional brand would. Next time I will go with a teaspoon…and possibly add a bit more chocolate.
Also, I think I will add another teaspoon of the minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce the next time around. This surprises me because I’m usually fairly sensitive when it comes to spices. Either my love of curries has started building up my tolerance or else baking the sauce mellows the heat in this recipe; probably a bit of both.
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥