Recipe: Chicken Mole-ish

This is very definitely not a proper Mole sauce. I don’t do anything fancy like using a carefully selected collection of different kinds of chilli and grinding them with my spices, and it is somewhat less fiery than the real thing. But it is a nice, smoky, spicy, slightly chocolatey sauce for chicken that takes very little effort to make, and can be left simmering in the background of whatever else you are doing for as long as you like – in fact, it gets better the longer you simmer it.

This works very well for a weeknight meal when you feel like a little bit of meat, but nothing too heavy. I made this with 2 thigh fillets and served it with rice and a salad, and it was enough for four people. I think 3 thigh fillets would probably give you a better meat to sauce ratio, and might stretch the meal to feed 5.

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olive oil
2-3 chicken thigh fillets
1 onion
1 tbsp roast garlic or 2 cloves garlic
2 chipotle peppers
2 tbsp adobo sauce from the chipotle peppers
400 g tinned chopped tomatoes (this is one of the few occasions where finely chopped or crushed tomatoes will work better than diced or whole tomatoes
50 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ground coriander

Now what will you do with it?

Heat oil in a saucepan or casserole dish that will be happy in the oven and on the stovetop, and preheat the oven to 180°C.

Chop the thigh fillets into bite size chunks, and brown briefly in the olive oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Finely chop the onion, and sauté until soft but not coloured. Finely chop the garlic and chipotle peppers, add them, and stir around.

Add the tinned tomatoes, chocolate, spices and oregano, and stir until the chocolate is melted and it’s looking pretty homogenous.

Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and put in the oven. Bake for at least half an hour, but the longer the better, really – check after an hour and add a little water if it’s getting dry. The longer it gets, the better the flavours will meld and the softer the chicken will be. A slow cooker would be a good option, too.

Serve! This makes enough for 4-6 people, depending on what you are serving it with. I like it with Deborah Madison’s spicy green rice (which is not quite this recipe here, but is close enough to it to count), and carrot and lime salad. Or with sweet potato and black bean chilli, guacamole, corn chips, and capsicums sautéed with onions, cumin, chilli and oregano.

Variations

I bet this would be awesome if you took a whole chicken, cut it into portions, doubled the sauce, and put the whole thing into a slow cooker for 6 hours. This sauce just gets better the longer it has to cook.

Anyway. This is obviously not vegetarian, though the sauce itself is vegan, gluten-free and nut-free, and you probably could cook tofu or paneer in it instead of chicken and it would be very hard to tell under all the flavour of the sauce. For that matter, you could put diced sweet potatoes or potatoes in this sauce and that would be less proteiny but still yummy. I suspect there are plenty of vegetable dishes that could be enhanced by this sauce, but I can’t think of any of them because I usually want my vegetables to taste of themselves, and this sauce is kind of aggressive.

Definitely make sure you have some brightly coloured vegetables going on with your sides, though – otherwise, this is a depressingly brown meal…

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