Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Holy (Almost) Mole and Any Night Cerviche to the Rescue -- With Recipes (and Suggestion for a Vegan Mole)

Any Night Cerviche
Okay, okay.  So I've made fine moles out of a jar mix (Dona Maria, thank you).  I've made fabulous, unbelievably complex moles from scratch with several kinds of dried Mexican chilies soaked, drained, pureed and then strained.  (For those of you new to moles, they are a style of Mexican or Aztec chili sauce with many variations, including some that include chocolate.) But sometimes you just want a really great mole with homemade taste without staining your entire kitchen (not to mention your hands and nails) red.

That calls for my super hero of the kitchen -- Almost Mole.  True, it starts with ground chilies from the store instead of the soaking, the draining, the pureeing and straining, but despite it's quick start it delivers a rich and slightly tongue tingling taste. This sauce makes a wonderful chicken mole (see below), but combine it with vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, carrots, red pepper and corn) for a great vegan meal as well.  I like to add canned posole (cooked white hominy) to my vegetable moles and make them vegan by using oil instead of chicken schmaltz (fat) and vegetable broth in place of the chicken stock. Serve either vegan or chicken mole over rice and pass the tortillas for mopping up all your fine home-made sauce.

Serve with Any Night Cerviche -- a quick and easy starter with a Mexican flair and a bit of a sharp taste to contrast with the richer mole sauce.

Almost Mole with Chicken
Serves 6

1 recipe spice paste (see below)
2 Tbs. chicken fat or vegetable oil
3 lbs. chicken thighs or other bone-in parts
1 cup thinly sliced onion
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 large can (24-26 oz.) strained tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth or stock with more as needed
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 8” flour tortilla, processed into fine crumbs.
Finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional for garnish

Make the spice paste and have it ready (see below). Heat fat until melted and hot in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken pieces (removing skin first if desired), working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken from pan. Add onions, sauté until softened, add garlic, sauté until garlic is golden, add carrots and bell peppers and sauté for several minutes. Add in spice paste, stirring and sautéing until well incorporated with the sautéed vegetables. Stir in strained tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in tortilla pieces. Return browned chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and cover. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally and turning chicken pieces so they are coated in the sauce, until chicken is cooked through. Add additional broth if needed as it cooks. The sauce should be thick but still a bit liquid. Garnish with cilantro.

Spice paste:  In a food processor (or working in batches in a blender), chop 1 quartered onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, 2 Tbs. ancho chili powder, 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper into a fairly smooth paste.

Any Night Ceviche
Serves 4 as appetizer

1/2 lb. mild, white fish fillets such as tilapia or snapper
1/2 cup chopped tomato (cut in 1/4" pieces)
1/2 cup chopped white onion (cut into 1/4” pieces)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp. minced, seeded jalapeño  
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
6 oz. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. canola oil
Diced avocado, optional for garnish 

Rinse and cut fish into 1/4" pieces. Place in glass or other non-reactive bowl. Add tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Stir well. Combine juice and oil and pour over fish.  Fish should be just covered.  Add additional juice and oil if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with diced avocado. Serve on top of lettuce or with tortilla chips.
A version of this article first appeared in the j. weekly

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