I know this now: mole just means sauce, or mixture. (So guacamole = avocado mixture.) Previously I thought there was mole*, and it was a brown, chocolaty sauce in which chicken parts were braised. Then I started taking note of the different moles at different establishments. I was eating a fine meal at Chicago's Mixteco Grill recently and everyone's mole was so different - some smoky from the chipotle peppers, some more chocolaty, some sort of vinegary. I had never sampled mole verde, so when the opportunity presented itself to cook it myself I jumped at it.
It was a fun cooking experience. Araceli, a great Mexican cook, and my teacher in this lesson, explained that the mole verde is a great starter mole because it's quicker and easier to make than the others. It wasn't hard, but there were many steps and ingredients that surprised me. Boiling peppers? Pumpkin seeds? LETTUCE?!?
Pollo con Mole Verde
YOU WILL NEED:
Four skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds, or a jar of Dona Maria Mole Verde - the principal ingredient is pepitas
One bunch cilantro
Three poblano peppers
One head Romaine hearts (or equivalent)
Place in a medium stockpot:
1/2 onion, peeled and quartered
few springs cilantro
1/2 t salt
Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cover loosely, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Save the cooking broth - you'll use it later. (Alternately, you could marinate and grill the chicken - just have some chicken broth on hand for the mole.)
Meanwhile, cut the poblanos in half and remove seeds and veins. Place in a small saucepan and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.
Now you need pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, to lend the mole it's classic flavor. We used a jarred pepita mole for this, but next time I'd just grind the pepitas myself. They're widely available, so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding them. Just make sure they're green and shelled. Toast them first in the oven or in a pan - just about 5-10 minutes ought to do it - just til they're fragrant. Then let them cool. Grind them up in a blender with a half-cup or so of chicken broth - blend until as smooth as you can get them.
Now you need to blend everything else. You will have to do this in two or three batches. Add to the blender (you can keep the pepitas in):
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded
6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
small head romaine lettuce (or 6-8 big leaves)
2-3 cups chicken broth (cooking broth or other)
Now, heat a small splash of canola oil in a large saucepan. As you blend the batches of veggies, add to the saucepan. It's a beautiful thing. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. It's gonna make a bit of a mess - it's like a burpy lava pool.
If you're doing this in advance, you can just let the mole sit at this point. When you're ready to serve dinner, add the chicken and reheat (cook some white rice while reheating). Taste for seasoning, too - you will probably want to add a bit more salt.
To serve, simply plate the chicken with a generous scoop of mole verde on top.
* For the record, I did at least know that it's pronounced MO-LAY, unlike my daughter who after seeing on our weekly menu was horrified that we were eating the furry maker of molehills.