Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mole Amarillo with Game Hens

Oaxaca, Mexico is known for its moles.  Most people are familiar with the dark brown one served with chicken in lots of mom and pop Mexican restaurants-the one flavored with bitter Mexican chocolate.  In actuality there are 7 traditional moles from Oaxaca.  Mole Amarillo or Yellow Mole is one of them-the sauce turned out a shade of dark red, so I'm not sure why they called it amarillo. 

It might not be yellow, but it is tasty just the same.  Moles are mysterious and complicated recipes-they are ancient concoctions which require patience and time to prepare.  One exception is one of our favorite dips-Guacamole-that's right, Guacamole is a mole-so I recommend you approach any mole recipe just like you're going to mix up a bowl of Guacamole and the task will just fall into place.  I modified this recipe from Saveur magazine.

I roasted game hens, rubbed with lemon and oregano, but the real star is the mole.

10 dried guajillo chiles, seeded and washed
1/2 tsp of ground achiote
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp saffron
2 tbs oil
1 head of garlic, all cloved peeled
1 medium onion, peeld and roughly chopped
8 tomatillo, husked, washed, and roughly chopped up
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped up
1 tbs yerba santa, ground
salt to taste and a pinch of sugar
Chicken stock as needed

Toast the peppers in a dry cast iron skillet, add the annatto and cover with 2 cups of hot water.  Let the mixture seep for 20 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat 1 tbs of the oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium low heat until the vegetables are soft and begin to turn golden.  Add the cloves, cumin, oregano, saffron, and yerba santa.

Add the toasted peppers, reserve the water, tomatillos and tomato, continue to saute until soft and browned. Add the reserved chilie water.

Puree in small batches and press through a strainer.  This should be a fairly thick paste.

Saute the paste in the remaining tbs of oil for about 20 minutes, thin to sauce consistency with the chicken stock and simmer for up to 2 hours before serving.  Add the salt and sugar to taste.

I ladled some of the mole into a deep soup plate and placed a split game hen on top.  I served an herb green rice with peas from a Rick Bayless cookbook on the side.