After multiple years of relatively dry winters, John’s pre-baby wish is coming true: the snowfall for 2016 has made my powder-loving husband pretty happy. He wakes up before dawn to get a few runs in before he starts his work day. He scours the peaks across the valley from our living room through binoculars, determining where he’ll hike to ski with Cholula. Though it’s not fun, he’s spent hours shoveling a tunnel around the house for the dog. As for me, the deep snow makes it more difficult for me to get out on my favorite trails, but I try. (Cholula is helpful in getting me up and out!) It zaps my already-low energy more quickly and bundling up to brave the cold isn’t as easy as it sounds with limited mobility and a huge baby belly in the way. But like I say every year, if it’s going to be this cold, it might as well be covered in the white stuff. It’s beautiful!
After a bone-chilling activity out in the snow, you need a soul-warming meal. It’s been less easy for me to tackle new recipes in the kitchen; truthfully, I’ve been opting for naps, instead. Cold weather and low energy point to one thing: the crockpot. With a little bit of planning and minimal effort, I can still get a spectacular dinner together! Case in point: this Chicken Mole dish.
Here in the states, mole generally refers to a sauce with chile peppers, nuts, and chocolate. Oddly, I was a stranger to mole before living in Utah. There’s a well-known Mexican restaurant called the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City that has a line of patrons out the door from the time it opens for lunch. The place offers the traditional chocolate mole (mole poblano) but six other varieties, as well. Each is delicious in its own way and I found it interesting to learn that mole sauce doesn’t always mean chocolate.
This recipe would probably fall in the mole poblano category, using (among other things) dried chiles, chipotles, almonds, and bittersweet chocolate. It’s not the kind of crockpot recipe where you toss everything in and leave it alone. You have to make the sauce first, but it’s not difficult or time-consuming. Here’s how I did it!
I started by smashing lots of garlic cloves and chopping a whole yellow onion. I also took the stems off of some dried New Mexico chiles. (My store didn’t have ancho chiles and Google told me that New Mexico chiles are similar.) I gave them a quick pulse in my large food processor to break them down and make room for other ingredients.
Next, I poured in a big can of diced tomatoes and added 4-5 chipotle chiles. I also spooned in some of the adobo sauce from the canned chipotles. I added a cup of chopped almonds, some cinnamon and cumin, and olive oil to loosen everything up. Oh! Let’s not forget the ingredient that makes it mole-y…the chocolate!
I blended the ingredients well to get the sauce as smooth as I could. It was still thick with plenty of texture, and look at that spectacular color! Prep work was finished- time to let the crockpot take over. I generously seasoned 12 boneless chicken thighs with salt and pepper and got them into the crock. I poured the sauce over the chicken and stirred it well to be sure every thigh was coated. And then came the best part of crockpot cooking: setting the timer, putting the lid on, and forgetting about it until dinnertime.
The chicken cooked for about three hours on the high setting. I stirred it once or twice during that time. After three hours, I tasted the sauce and added more salt and additional chocolate (in the form of chips!). I took out the chicken and shredded it before returning it to the sauce for another hour and a half on low heat.
Before serving, I jazzed up some tasty local Mexican rice with peas, corn, and seasonings and charred a stack of flour tortillas. I also chopped up plenty of cilantro and sliced a lime for garnish. What a simple, beautiful plate of YUM! We ate it as more snow fell outside.
My preferred method of enjoying the chicken mole was tucked into a piece of charred tortilla with some rice scooped on top. You might be questioning the chocolate in a savory dish, but there’s just a hint of sweetness. The chocolate really just brings a depth of flavor that goes well with the spice of the chiles. The cumin and chipotle peppers add smokiness and there’s a warmth from the cinnamon. The squeeze of lime over the top is just the hit of acidity the mole needs to balance out the rich flavors. Delicious!
This recipe makes a lot of mole sauce. We had it for dinner twice and I was still able to freeze quite a bit of it. Those leftovers in the freezer will come in handy after we enter the madness of Baby Town in a month or so… or during the next snow storm when we want delectable comfort food!
Crockpot Chicken Mole (adapted from this recipe)
- 12 boneless chicken thighs
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 5 dried New Mexico chiles, stems removed (ancho chilis work, too)
- 4-5 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (and some of the sauce!)
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Warmed flour tortillas, sliced lime, and chopped cilantro for serving
Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in the crockpot. In a blender or food processor, blend the rest of the ingredients (onion through chocolate) until smooth. Pour over the chicken thighs and stir well to coat. Put the lid on the crockpot and set it to high heat for three hours.
After three hours, remove the chicken and shred it, using two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce for another hour and a half on low heat. Taste and adjust salt or chocolate sweetness. Serve topped with cilantro with lime and warm tortillas on the side. Leftovers can be frozen for the next snowy day. YUM.
Hungry for more? Check out the collection of recipes on the FOOD BLISS page.
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