Chicken with chocolate sounds weird, no? But what if the chocolate is spicy (not sweet), in a sauce that envelopes shredded chicken? Plus, the dish is served (in an enchilada or on its own) with rice and a salad of oranges and red onions. That preparation, chicken mole, is delicious.
Maybe you’ve had chicken mole in a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant and didn’t even realize there was chocolate in the sauce. This quick-and-easy version uses prepared mole in a jar, but it’s still good enough to serve company.
I do plan to make mole from scratch someday, using Pati Jinich’s recipe for mole poblano. However, that requires many ingredients and lots of patience. By contrast, this version of chicken mole uses only 4-5 ingredients if you don’t count water. ( The fifth ingredient, salt, it optional and I often leave it out.) You don’t sacrifice flavor by opting for a commercially prepared mole sauce. The two brands that I have used, Goya and Dona Maria, contain many of the ingredients in Pati’s recipe and no preservatives or other additives.
I learned to make this chicken mole from my law school roommate Penny. A California girl stuck in New York for three years, she had a jaunty step, a twinkle in her eye, and an irreverent attitude toward law school. Penny loved to host dinner parties. They had to be on the cheap. We were students, after all. But we had high standards for the quality of the food at our parties. After dinner, we rolled up the living room rug and danced until the wee hours, especially if exams had just ended.
This chicken mole fit the bill perfectly. Although we didn’t stay in touch in the subsequent years, I’ve continued to make this mole. And when I do, I think of Penny and those fun times.
Like Jewish chicken soup, you begin by simmering a whole chicken. (Check the chicken soup post for a rather anatomical description of how to check for, and remove the innards, known as giblets.)
But mole is simpler than making chicken soup in two important ways:
- All you need for the cooking stage is an onion and water – no other vegetables or herbs, and
- While chicken soup simmers for hours in order to concentrate the broth, mole only requires simmering the chicken until it is done. The broth is less concentrated and less flavorful. However it is flavorful enough when added to the spicy mole sauce.
After cooking, you have to cool it down before shredding the meat. Simply leaving the hot chicken on the counter until it cools takes too long. Besides, it is dangerous. Cooling it in the refrigerator isn’t much faster.
In my experience, the fastest and best way to cool the cooked chicken is to put it, whole, into a bowl submerged in a second, larger bowl filled with ice and a bit water. That method cools the chicken down in a hurry.
As the chicken cools, mix the mole sauce with some of the broth that the chicken created when it was simmered in water. Straight from the jar, mole sauce is hard and almost clay-like. Gradually, as you stir in the broth, break up the lumps, and cook the mole, it turns into a thick sauce. Add a bit of sugar and you’re almost done.
Once the chicken is shredded and the sauce is ready, you just combine them and let the chicken mole cook for a few minutes.
Writing this post, I had a vision of an even quicker version – using a store-roasted chicken and prepared broth, maybe homemade, frozen in ice cube trays. Far be it from me to suggest that you make this not-quite-homemade dish even easier. Still, it’s not a bad idea. In fact, the next time I’m really in a time crunch and don’t want to serve plain roast chicken, I may very well do it.
I originally published this post in February 2013. Three years later, I substantially reworked it, with new photos. The recipe ingredients and directions, while edited, remain substantively the same as in the original version.