Monday, August 15, 2011

Chocolate Chicken

I find the concept of chocolate in savory dishes rather fascinating. To take something so mentally connected with desserts and successfully insert it into a soup or sauce or chili, seems culinarily creative to me. So, when Mandi purchased a new cookbook that included a Mexican mole recipe, I was more than a little intrigued. I conveniently pointed out the recipe and hoped that she too would find the concept worthy of trying. Thankfully for me (and both of our taste buds), she did. I would rank this recipe as one of my favorite Visual Feast concoctions thus far...perhaps just behind the Panzanella, which has become one of my all-time favorite dishes. If you have your doubts about the chocolate and chicken combo, doubt no more.

I didn't know much about mole when I started out making this recipe, so I did a bit of research and found that, besides incorporating unique ingredients, mole has some unique history as well. Personally, I find random research fascinating, so humor me as I share a few of my favorite new-found facts. And think not of this as worthless data but rather as future trivial pursuit answers waiting to be put to good use.

- The most common legend about the invention of mole originated from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla sometime early in the colonial period. Upon hearing that the archbishop was going to visit, the convent nuns went into a panic because they were poor and had almost nothing to prepare. The nuns prayed and brought together the little bits of what they did have: chili peppers, spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate, and more. They killed an old turkey they had, cooked it, and put the sauce on top. The archbishop loved it.

- Many markets in Mexico sell mole pastes and powders in pre-packaged containers or by the kilo. These mole mixes are heavy with a strong odor, so much so that security agents at the Mexico City airport once admitted that mole can register a positive when they check for explosives.

- Ingredients that have been added into moles include nuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame seed, pumpkin and/or squash seeds, cilantro, seedless grapes, plantains, garlic, onion, cinnamon, chocolate and more.

-The popularity of mole, especially at major celebrations, is such that 99% of all Mexicans have tried at least one version of it.*

So, there you have it. Fun facts for a fun food.

I kept putting off the making of this week's recipe because I was secretly dreading the multiple steps and the time involved for marinating. Sometimes being a mama makes me steer away from recipes that feel too time-consuming. "Me time" is a precious commodity these days. But, one of the advantages of living closer to family is that there are often extra sets of hands who pop in and are more than happy to play with the babe. During one such visit, I took advantage of my sister's presence and stole away to the kitchen. It really didn't take too much time, as long as you account for the marinating process. And, the dish is filled with so many good-smelling ingredients, that you are preparing yourself for an amazing meal the whole time that you are prepping and marinating and cooking. It's a really good thing that the final product tastes as good as it smells because there's almost nothing as disappointing as a meal that smells unbelievable but somehow lacks in flavor. Flavor, however, is one this mole's best features. Try it. You'll never look at chocolate the same way again.

*Facts borrowed from


  1. Thanks for all the trivia:-) I wondered about that name. Clever nuns!! How wonderful they were able to keep the archbishop happy:-) And, you two girls followed appropriately, keeping your family happy. Yummy chicken!! We loved the aroma as it was cooking, and we agree, the taste did not disappoint us. Your Dad loved it!!

  2. I am definitely intrigued and want to give it a try. I love recipes that combine ingredients that just don't seem like they should go. We recently made a honey mustard chicken that had fresh mint and jalapeno along with the more expected ingredients. I think it makes for a much deeper, more complex dish which is just irresistible.


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