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Coloradito: Oaxacan red mole with chicken

September 10, 2008
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Serves 8 (with lots of sauce)

CHICKEN

8 large chicken breast halves or 8 leg-and-thigh pieces with bone
1/2 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, halved
1 tablespoon salt
1. Place the chicken pieces in a large pot. Add cold water to cover, the onion, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a full rolling boil, cover the pot, and turn off heat. Let the chicken sit for 30 minutes.

2. With tongs, transfer the chicken to large plate; set aside. Reserve the broth.

SAUCE

3 medium round tomatoes or 6 medium plum tomatoes
8 ounces (about 16) dried ancho chili pods
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 head garlic (unpeeled, separated into cloves)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
8 whole almonds
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablets Mexican chocolate (Ibarra brand 3.3 ounce tablets are common), chopped
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1. Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lay a piece of foil in the pan. Press it flat. Set the tomatoes on top. Pan-roast, turning several times, for 20 minutes or until they are very soft and blackened in places. Remove tomatoes from the heat; set aside.

2. Set another large skillet over medium heat. When hot, lay a few chili pieces on the surface in a single layer. With a metal spatula, press down on them for 15 seconds or until they change color and release their fragrance into the kitchen. Turn and quickly press the other side. (Don't let the chilies smoke, or they will be burnt and bitter.) Transfer to a small bowl. When all the chilies are toasted, fill the bowl with hot tap water. Set aside for 30 minutes or until they soften, stirring several times.

3. Set the skillet over medium heat again. Lay a piece of foil in the pan. Press it flat. Lay the onion and garlic cloves on the foil. Roast, turning several times, for 8 minutes or until they are soft and blackened in spots. Transfer the onion to a bowl. Continue roasting garlic, turning several times, for 7 minutes (15 minutes total) or until soft and blackened in places. Transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool and peel the garlic.

4. Remove foil from onion-roasting skillet. Set the skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and the sesame seeds. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the seeds brown. Transfer to a large bowl.

5. With tongs, transfer the chilies from the soaking water to the sesame seeds. Set the soaking water aside. Add the oregano, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, raisins, and almonds to the sesame seeds. Mix well. Scoop half of the mixture into a blender. Pour in just enough of the chili-soaking liquid to cover them.

6. Blend the mixture until very smooth. Set a medium-mesh strainer over a clean bowl. Pour in the chili puree and press it through with a rubber spatula. (Don't rinse the blender.) Discard the solids in the strainer. Repeat the blending and straining with remaining sesame seed mixture.

7. Peel off and discard the tomato skins. In the blender, combine the tomatoes, any juices in the skillet, the peeled garlic, and onion. Cover and blend at high speed until smooth.

8. Wash and dry the skillet. Set over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. When it is hot, add the tomato puree. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

9. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until hot. Add the chili puree and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes or until mixture becomes very thick.

10. Scrape in the cooked tomato mixture, bread crumbs, and chopped chocolate. Add 4 cups of the chicken-cooking broth. Stir until the chocolate melts. Lower the heat to medium-low. Set the lid slightly askew. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

11. The sauce should be the consistency of tomato soup. If necessary, add more chicken broth. Stir in the sugar and salt. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar or salt, if you like. Lay the chicken pieces in the sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes. Adapted from "Rick and Lanie's Excellent Cooking Adventures"

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