Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Mole Tacos

You know when you get a craving for something you just can't shake.  This past week for me it was tacos.  There is something about spicy meat, crispy vegetables, creamy cheese all wrapped up in a corn tortilla.  I think I could eat tacos every day.  I know Joe could!
Chicken Pumpkin-Ancho Mole Taco
I knew exactly what kind of tacos I wanted to make.  A few months ago... while watching the Food Network I saw one of my favorite TV Chefs, Sunny Anderson, make this chicken mole dish... but get this... there was no chocolate!  What?!?  A mole with no chocolate?  I was intrigued. 
Perfect combination of chilis, pepitas, roasted veggies and chicken
Turns out... according to Ms. Sunny and the Wiki-know-it-alls the word "mole" simply means "sauce."  Here I thought it meant chocolate sauce!!  Actually - chocolate is not a popular ingredient in Mexican moles usually.  The most common component is chili peppers (ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle) and then the sky is the limit when it comes to what goes in it.  Some moles can have upwards of 26 ingredients!  
Amazing dinner
What stood out about Sunny's mole was the use of toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and ancho chilies (dried poblano chilies).  I love pumpkin seeds and have always wondered how to use those dried chilies I keep seeing at the grocery store.  Also, her recipe called for brining the chicken breasts first.  HELLO!  I had never thought about that but the idea is genius! 
Brine to ensure the chicken is nice and moist
I did make some changes to the recipe though.  I added more jalapenos because Joe and I love spice (however it was still pretty mild) and I threw in a few tablespoons of brown sugar to sweeten it up a bit.  
Served up with all of the fixins
The mole was DELICIOUS!! Serve it up with warm corn tortillas and some fresh cilantro, red onion, sliced radishes, creamy avocado and crumbles of queso fresco.  

Slightly adapted from Sunny Anderson/Food Network


  • 8 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
  • 5 ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers)
  • 4 large jalapenos, halved
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 large bunch cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 16 corn tortillas, kept warm
  • 2 limes, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted and flesh sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced 

  • In a medium saucepan, combine 6 cups water, salt, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl, add the chicken, and refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. In a medium heatproof bowl, add the ancho chiles and cover with the boiling water. Weigh down with a plate so the peppers remain under water and let them soak for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the stems when the peppers have softened making sure the scrape off any seeds.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a sheet tray toss the jalapenos, onion, tomatoes, garlic and cumin with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast until nicely caramelized with good color, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds to a dry, hot skillet on high heat. Stir often, until the seeds are golden and begin to pop. Transfer to a food processor along with roasted vegetables. Add the soaked chiles, about 2 tablespoons of chili soaking liquid, the cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons if brown sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the processor. Puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. 
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, blot dry with paper towels and put into a large Dutch oven. Pour in the mole sauce and bake, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 55 to 60 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool. When cool to the touch, shred the chicken and add it back to the sauce. Spoon the mole into corn tortillas and serve with lime wedges, avocado slices, red onion, and radishes. Garnish with cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

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