This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, and I traditionally make it for him on his birthday, which happens to be el doce de Mayo. Once you’ve made the real thing, a complicated spicy/sweet mix of chocolate, peppers, fruit, and nuts, you won’t even contemplate buying a jar of readymade molé sauce.
Chocolate has a rich history in the Yucatan Peninsula of what is now Mexico, going back to the Olmec tribe as early as 600 B.C. Later groups –– the Mayans, the Toltecs, and the Aztecs –– fought over chocolate, traded with cacao beans, featured the cacao tree in their creation story, and drank liquid chocolate as part of their wedding rituals. It is probably the Aztecs who created the first molé sauce by adding bitter chocolate to food.
Here’s my molé in all its drippy glory:
The origins for this Chicken Molé recipe are unknown — a version of it is widely available on internet web sites, and I’ve adjusted some of the ingredients over the years. It is a fairly simple dish to make, despite its long list of ingredients. Like me, you may find that you like to pull it out for special occasions. Serve it over rice; with cornbread, beans, or quesadillas; or all by itself.
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
6 chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 slices canned pimento, chopped (approx. 3 Tbsp.)
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 8 canned whole plum tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp. chili powder (to taste)
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 squares bitter chocolate, chopped
Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a deep sauté pan or pot.
Add garlic and simmer for a few minutes.
Add chicken and brown both sides. Remove chicken to a baking dish.
In remaining oil, cook the onion, green pepper, pimento, and tomato over gentle
heat for 10 minutes, adding another Tbsp. of oil if necessary.
Add chili powder, blending well.
Add broth, almonds, raisins, seasonings, sugar, and rind.
Simmer, covered, 30 minutes longer.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add chocolate, stirring until melted.
Place chicken in a casserole dish and spoon the sauce over it.
Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until chicken is tender. When done cooking, allow to stand for a few minutes.
When the weather warms, my thoughts just naturally turn to blue drinks. A cocktail rendered the color of clear skies and swimming pools conveys the essence of summer relaxation and good times. The Mexican Cielo was created by tequila expert, Lippy, to evoke the wide sky over –– where else? –– Tequila, Mexico.
A fresh lime
1 ½ oz. blanco tequila
2 oz. blue curacao
½ tsp. heavy cream
Wipe the rim of a chilled martini glass with lime and then dip it into a saucer of white sugar to rim it (if desired).
Pour the tequila and the blue curacao into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes.
Shake well and strain into the prepared glass.
Add the heavy cream to the surface of the drink in a couple of drops, so that it resembles cirrus clouds on a lazy summer day.
Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman