Molé Negro Oaxaqueño
Oaxacan Black Molé
This famous dish is considered the king of all molés. It is traditionally served on “The Day of the Dead.” Yes, it’s a little work. So put on a little “Musica Tropical,” ice down a few Negro Modelos and do as they do in Mexico. Have a few good friends over and put everybody to work: someone toasting chiles, someone cutting and then cooking the chicken, someone measuring ingredients, and so on. Before you know it, you’re having a molé-making fiesta.
2 roasting chickens
61/2 quarts water
2 chiles de arbol
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground thyme
2 whole allspice
11/2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 chile negros
5 chile guajillos
5 chile anchos
5 chile mullatos
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons raw peanuts, skinned
1 stick canela, about 1 inch long
4 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
6 tablespoons corn oil plus some for lightly oiling comal
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
11/2 tablespoons raisins
1 slice egg bread
1 small ripe plantain, cut into slices
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pecans
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 medium tomatillos, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 medium white onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic
1 avocado leaf
41/2 ounces Ibarra chocolate, broken into small pieces
Salt to taste
Cut the chickens into leg, thigh, wing, and breast pieces. Remove the skin but save along with the backs, necks, and giblets. In a large stock pot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the chicken (including the skin, giblets, necks, and backs), chiles de arbol, thyme, allspice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the chicken juice runs clear when pierced. Remove pieces of chicken. Strain stock and discard spices, skin, giblets, necks, and backs.
While chicken is simmering, remove all remaining dried chile stems and veins and discard but save the seeds. Toast all the chiles on a dry comal or iron frying pan until dark brown but not until burnt (if the chiles burn they will become bitter). Place all the toasted chiles in a large bowl and cover with 11/2 quarts of boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water and run them through the blender a few at a time, with just enough of the soaking water to purée them to the consistency of a thin ketchup. (Be careful; hot liquids expand in a blender and can spill out the top and burn you.) Pour the sauce through a sieve into a bowl, working sauce through the sieve with the back of a spoon, until only the chile solids are left. Discard chile solids. Set sauce aside.
Meanwhile (I like to do this next step outside): On a dry comal or iron frying pan, toast the almonds, peanuts, canela, black peppercorns, and cloves; be careful not to burn. Set aside. Reduce heat and toast the seeds that you saved from the dried chiles until just blackened; be careful not to burn, and watch out—the smoke is very intense. Remove comal from heat; push the seeds together, light with a match, and allow to burn out. Place the blackened seeds in a cup of cold water and let soak for 10 minutes. While seeds are soaking, lightly oil the comal and sauté the onion and garlic until lightly browned. Set aside. Drain the blackened seeds and set aside.
In a deep, heavy iron frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons corn oil and bacon drippings until very hot. Fry the raisins for 1 minute and remove from pan, leaving the oil. Set aside. Fry the slice of bread until brown and remove from pan, leaving the oil. Set aside. In the same pan over medium heat, fry the plantain slices until browned. Set aside. Reduce heat and toast the sesame seeds until they start to turn color. Add the pecans and toast 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Set aside. Place the blackened seed in the spice grinder and grind to a powder. Add blackened seed powder to the chile sauce and stir well.
In the frying pan, cook the tomatoes, tomatillos, thyme, and oregano until most of the juices evaporate. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, stir well, and remove from heat. Set aside.
In a blender, purée the almonds, peanuts, canela, black peppercorns, cloves, raisins, bread, plantain, ground sesame seeds and pecans, 2 cups of the chicken stock, and onions and garlic until smooth .
Okay, this is the part you’ve waited for. In a large stock pot, heat remaining 3 tablespoons corn oil until very hot. Reduce heat to medium low and fry the chile sauce until almost dry, stirring constantly. Don’t let it burn. Add tomato mixture and fry until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add mixture from blender and 1 cup of chicken stock and stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.
Toast the avocado leaf and add to the pot along with the chocolate. Keep simmering and adding chicken stock as needed for 30 more minutes. Molé should be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon. Taste molé and adjust salt level. In a separate pot, simmer the chicken pieces in remaining chicken stock until hot. Place 1 piece of chicken in a shallow bowl and spoon on enough molé to totally cover. Serve with fresh, hot corn tortillas.