01 March 2008

Chicken in Mole Negro with Pickled Veggies

We're big fans of Peter Berley: he divides his books into seasons, gives you good menus, has a macrobiotic influence but doesn't shy away from nightshades, and his latest book, Flexitarian Table, helps cohabiting omnivores and herbivores achieve kitchen harmony. He has a perfectly good molé recipe in his Winter chapter, but the pickled veggies he pairs with it really stole the show.

Pickled Vegetable Salad (adapted from Flexitarian Table)

For the brine combine 4 cu. of water, 2/3 cu. of unpasteurized cider vinegar, 2 Tb. of sugar, 1 tsp. of coriander seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, some dried chilies and a couple bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes and then let it cool while you prepare the veggies.

He suggests a mixture of onion, carrots, cauliflower, fennel and red cabbage. Cut them as you please and combine them with the brine. Let them pickle in the refrigerator for at least two days before serving. Predictably, the red cabbage bled out and dyed the other veggies red and pink, which was fine but ruined the colorful mix, so you might substitute another cabbage in its place. The fennel and onions, however, were terrific, and are still making appearances on salads and sandwiches.

Chicken or Tempeh in Molé Negro (adapted from Flexitarian Table)

And here's the clever bit of Flexitarian Table: he writes at least one recipe in each menu two ways—one to please the omnivore and one to please the herbivore.

The omnivore should dismember a whole bird, remove the skin, season it and refrigerate for an hour or so. The herbivore may sit smugly by.

For the molé:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 dried ancho chilies
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 Tb. sesame seeds
  • 2 Tb. pepitas (wait, still more seeds needed)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo
  • 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Fry the anchos in the oil until they blister, then remove from the pan and let them cool. Break them open and remove the seeds. Put the chilies in the hot water and let them soak for 20 minutes. Drain them but keep the liquid for the molé.

Back at the skillet; heat it up again and cook the onions for a few minutes before adding the raisins, seeds and nuts. Let them toast until they are fragrant.

Scrape it all into a blender (but leave your skillet out for more hot simmering action), add the chipotle chilies, 1 tsp. salt, the ancho chilies, and 1 cup of the reserved chili water. Puree the mixture while slowly adding the remaining liquid until smooth. Return the puree back to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Now stir in the chocolate and add the cinnamon stick. Let the molé simmer for 20 minutes.

Bringing it all together is simply a matter of browning the chicken or tempeh and then covering it in molé and simmering it until done.

He suggests serving a creamy masa as the starch but we opted for rice with limes, garlic, parsley, cilantro and spinach.

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