Simplified Chicken in Mole Sauce

There are a million ways to make a mole sauce, but the common thread running through all authentic mole recipes is that they are somewhat labor-intensive.  This is my most streamlined mole sauce, coming in at about one hour (anything less might be considered unscrupulous). By choosing pre-ground spices and toasted seeds and nuts, less experienced cooks can eliminate some of the trials that often come with cooking a more complex dish. This recipe makes several cups of sauce, so freeze half for a second go-round on a frazzly weeknight.

Simplified Chicken in Mole Sauce

4 dried chilies (I used 2 anchos and 2 guajillos, my favorite combo)

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

4 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground anise or fennel seed

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/2 C. diced tomatoes (canned or boxed)

1 C. chicken broth PLUS 1/2 C. more for the chicken

1/2 C. whole roasted almonds

4 large, pitted prunes

2 oz. good quality dark chocolate, chopped

S & P

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or 4 whole chicken legs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put the kettle on to boil.  Remove the stems from the chilies, split them open, and shake out their seeds.  Place the dried chilies into a bowl and once the water boils, pour enough over to cover completely.  Weigh the chilies down with another bowl and let them sit in the water until soft, about 30 minutes, while you prep the other ingredients.

Place the chopped onions and smashed garlic into a baking dish and season with salt.  Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until the edges of some of the onions are beginning to become dark brown.  While they cook, set up your blender and pour in the tomatoes and 1 C. of the chicken broth, followed by all of the ground spices.

Once the onions are done, chances are your chilies are soft enough. Drain them, leaving any seeds behind, and add them to the blender with the tomatoes, broth, and spices.  Puree until very smooth.

Add the roasted onion and garlic to the blender, along with the almonds, prunes, chocolate and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Puree the mixture until well combined, stopping to stir a few times if necessary. If the mixture is too thick to spin on its own, add a little more broth to thin. Taste the mole for salt and pour into one or more containers for storage (you will need half of the mole to make the chicken recipe, which serves 4).

Mole  - Simplified Chicken in Mole Sauce

To make the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a pan large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces over medium-high heat (a medium-sized cast iron pan is perfect for this). Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the oil to the pan and allow it to get hot, and then place the chicken pieces into the pan, skin side down, to brown for 4 – 5 minutes. Once the skin is nice and crispy, remove them from the pan.

Pour the mole into the pan (it will begin to sizzle) and follow it immediately with the broth. Stir to combine and then nestle the chicken pieces down in the sauce with the skin-side up and out of the sauce (it will remain crispy this way.) Let the sauce come to a vigorous simmer, cover the pan, and transfer to the oven.  Bake the chicken for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.  Remove the chicken pieces to a platter or plate and transfer the sauce to a bowl to be served on the side. Serve with steamed rice or tortillas to mop up all of the delightful sauce.

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