Chicken Mole, Demystified

Until a year ago mole was this dish I’d heard mentioned a few times, always with a certain amount of reverence from my Mexican friends and family. Considering my Latin Cuisine savvy didn’t get much further than some form of meat, beans, and salsa intersecting with tortillas, fried into some clever shape to get goods in my mouth, I wasn’t sure what the big deal was. When my daughter turned one my husband informs me with awe that the little princesa will have mole made from scratch for her party. I am a spicy food addict so when I tried it, I remember mostly being confused. I wasn’t sure what I was tasting exactly, it wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t savory, it wasn’t spicy. It was just … mole. Weird.

I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when my salsa lady at the farmers market asks if I want to sample her mole. There’s that word again. Sure, I say, and imagine my surprise when she hands me a jar of … what I can only describe as goop. She proceeds to explain how to use it to make a sauce and off I go, more than a little freaked out. And now, after much research and experimentation I bring to you the simple, cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater way to make both dark and green mole.

Green Chicken Mole

Green Chicken Mole

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 8 oz – 12 oz shredded, poached chicken breast
  • 2 – 3 heaping tbsp of green mole paste, depending on how thick you want the sauce
  • 1 pd tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 cups chicken-tomatillo broth (you’ll have this after the first two steps)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prep

  • Start by poaching your 8 oz of chicken breast for 20 minutes. This can be one huge one or two smaller ones. I am assuming you are using frozen chicken, but you can start with fresh as well. Here is the full process.
  • Remove the breasts from the broth and set aside. Add your husked tomatillos into the broth and boil for 20 minutes, until soft. Shred your chicken with a fork while the tomatillos are boiling.
  • Remove the tomatillos and add to a blender. Take about 2 cups of the broth which is now infused with chicken and tomatillos and add to blender. Add two heaping tablespoons of the green mole paste to the blender as well. Blend ingredients until you have a smooth sauce.
  • In a medium-sized pot, add the shredded chicken and the mole sauce. Simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Everything is technically cooked but you want to boil the sauce down to a thick gravy and that is a slow process.
  • While the sauce is thickening and simmering, slice a red onion into thin rings. Cut the rings in half once. Put them in a bowl and squeeze one whole lemon and stir to coat. They can sit and marinate while you are heating tortillas.

When everything is ready, serve the mole with a side of Spanish rice, tortillas, the red onions, maybe cilantro, and marinated jalapeño pepper chips.

Dark Chicken Mole 

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 8 oz – 12 oz shredded, poached chicken breast
  • 2 – 3 heaping tbsp of dark mole paste, depending on how thick you want the sauce
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (recommended) or organic, low sugar peanut butter
  • 2  cups chicken broth reserved from poaching chicken
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 disks Mexican chocolate (optional)

Prep

  • Start by poaching your 8 oz of chicken breast for 20 minutes. This can be one huge one or two smaller ones. I am assuming you are using frozen chicken, but you can start with fresh as well. Here is the full process.
  • Remove the breasts from the broth and shred your chicken with a fork. Set aside.
  • Take about 2 cups of the broth from poaching the chicken and add to blender. Add the dark mole paste, almond butter, cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper to the blender as well. Break up the chocolate and add into the blender, if using. Blend ingredients until you have a smooth sauce.
  • In a medium-sized pot, add the shredded chicken and the mole sauce. Simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Everything is technically cooked but you want to boil the sauce down to a thick gravy and that is a slow process.
  • While the sauce is thickening and simmering, slice a red onion into thin rings. Cut the rings in half once. Put them in a bowl and squeeze one whole lemon and stir to coat. They can sit and marinate while you are heating tortillas.

Just like with green mole, when everything is ready, serve the mole with a side of Spanish rice, tortillas, the red onions, maybe cilantro, and marinated jalapeño pepper chips. The left over mole chicken is excellent in tacos and burritos.

If you want to get a little creative, you can actually use the green or dark mole sauce to make enchiladas. Just make your casserole as usual but your mole sauce is substituted for ranchera sauce. For dark mole, I would use a smokier cheese like gouda and for the green mole I would use pepper jack.

So there you have it folks, mole demystified. The process of making the mole paste from scratch is insane and, from what I am told, is something that even the most accomplished Mexican home cooks don’t bother with more than a few times in their life. Know I know why it was a great honor that my mother-in-law made mole from scratch for her reina pequena.

~Nom On

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Buttermilk Baked Chicken

I’m a huge fan of fried chicken, but less excited about what the saturated grease does to my stomach. Enter this easy recipe that gives you utterly yummy, juicy chicken legs with 1/3 of the fat and none of the nasty. It does take about a day of advanced planning, but in general, it’s a very easy dish.

Buttermilk Baked Chicken

Buttermilk Baked Chicken

Ingredients

  • 9 or 10 chicken drumsticks
    Budget Note: If you buy a big batch of drumsticks on sale and freeze them, you can defrost half the batch at the same time you marinate them.
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Pepper hot sauce – Tabasco, Franks, or Louisiana hot sauce all work
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup plain or Italian breadcrumbs

Prep

  • In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, a few dashes of hot sauce, and the salt and pepper together and stir.
  • Pour the mixture into a large freezer-sized ziplock bag. Add the chicken drumsticks, frozen or fresh, into the bag with the mixture. Move the chicken and mxture around to make sure its all coated and place in the fridge to marinate. If the chicken is fresh, marinate for about 3 hours. If it’s frozen, marinate for 24 hours.
  • Once your chicken is done marinating, pour the bread crumbs into a bowl or onto a plate. Roll each drumstick around to fully coat and place on a baking sheet coated in olive oil.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Now you got yo’self a plate of chicken. Serve with whatever you normally like – baked beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, or mashed taters and gravy. No KFC shiz-nits for you!

~Nom On

Chicken Verde Casserole

Since I made a batch of salsa verde this past weekend, I have been looking for reasons to use it! This casserole is great because you essentially get all the flavors of sour cream chicken enchiladas with less fuss and prep. So long as you didn’t make your salsa verde too spicy, this dish is kid friendly and I find it comforting for cold weather, but the flavors suit the summertime just fine.

Chicken Verde Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded(Budget Tip: I always keep frozen chicken breasts in the fridge. They can be baked right out of the bag at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Just get them to 160 degrees internal temp, let cool enough to handle, and shred with a fork. It’s cheaper than rotisserie chicken and doesn’t require advanced planning.)
  • 2 cups jack or pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
    (Note: Yellow corn tortillas are amazing! White corn is what we often grab by default, but give yellow corn a try. It has such a warm flavor.)
  • 2 cups tomato, chopped
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups salsa verde
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped

Garnishes:

  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Avocado, thinly sliced and dusted with salt and pepper
  • More salsa!

Prep:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chicken, sour cream, and 3/4 cup of the salsa.
  • Grease a square, 8-inch baking pan with a little oil and then coat with about 1/4 cup of salsa.
  • Layer with 4 tortillas, 1/2 of the chicken mixture, the tomatoes, a sprinkle of cilantro, 1/4 cup salsa, and 1 cup of cheese.
  • Add another layer of tortillas, chicken mixture,1/4 cup of salsa, and remaining cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.

Serve with remaining salsa, sour cream, slices of seasoned avocado, and a sprinkle of cilantro on top. This is a hearty meal so you probably don’t need sides, but if you want a side salad I would recommend you cut up a beefsteak tomato and sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper and layer on a few leafs of lettuce. It will compliment the flavors perfectly and not be to much food.

~Nom On

Lasagna cupcakes: Lasagna goes mobile

I don’t know about you, but lasagna is a love-hate thing for me. It’s got great flavor, but it’s really time consuming to make and it’s really heavy. Must one go without Garfield’s favorite dish unless it’s 40 below outside? Apparently not. I found these cupcakes to give you the flavor without the heavy or the time consumption. What fun, what fun?!

Lasagna Cupcake

Ingredients:

  • 1 pd ground turkey or chicken (*Don’t be cheap alert)
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (*Don’t be cheap alert)
  • 1 package 24 count wonton wrappers
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese (Skim or regular is fine.)
  • 1 tbsp Herbs of Provence
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, freshly grated (Never skim, it melts for shit. If you are eating lasagna in any form you are not on a diet that day. Trust me.)
  • 2-3 oz parmesan or romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 jar of pasta sauce (I really like 5 brothers cabernet marinara but you can use plan tomato sauce or your own homemade marinara if you have it handy.)

Prep:

  • Heat up your EVOO in a skillet until it is slightly smoking.
  • Toss the onion and garlic in the oil and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until softened and translucent. About 4 minutes.
  • Add the ground meat and cook until browned.
  • Drain the meat mixture and set aside.
  • Mix the Herbs of Provence and a little salt and pepper into the ricotta, to taste.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Rub a little EVOO into each cup of your 12 space muffin tin.
  • Layer two wonton wrappers in each muffin tin in opposite directions, so each cup is fully covered. The tips should be sticking up out of the cup.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture, then a spoonful of the meat mixture, then a spoonful of sauce, and finally a pinch of mozzarella and parmesan to top.
  • Repeat for each muffin cup.
  • OPTIONAL: If you and your co-munchers like spicy food, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to each muffin cup for a little kick. 
  • Back for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the wonton is lightly browned.
  • OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a little fresh or dried basil in each cup immediately after pulling out of the oven. It adds a nice speck of color and sharp flavor, but its not a deal breaker if you don’t have any. 
  • Lte cool a few minutes before serving.

What’s with the ‘freshly grated’ dictate?

Freshly grated means you buy the cheese in whole blocks or chunks and grate it your lazy-ass self. Why? Because once cheese gets grated and sliced up before packaging, it alters and dampens the flavor. I know, I know; cheese graters are scary. But trust me, it’s worth the effort and shredded knuckles. Grate your cheese when you are ready to mix it in to your recipe. The cheese lasts and holds it’s flavor longer if you just grate what you need, when you need it, and store the rest in tupperware until you need it again!

~Nom On

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

So, you like a good pot pie, but you don’t like the amount of time and mess and clean up it requires. Enter this hand-sized pie. I will, of course, be giving you the shortcut-loaded approach so you can have this ready to rock, faster. As a side note, if you have a member of your family that finds pot pies a creamy mess, but you love them, this recipe is a great middle ground because it’s savory, but not creamy. I can attest that it is both bitchy-spouse and fickle-toddler approved.

Chicken Hand Pies

Ingredients:

For filling:

  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 pd chopped chicken breast or ground chicken
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth OR water with 1/4 cube of chicken boullion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For crust:

  • 1/2 cup heart smart bisquick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs

Prep:

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.
  • In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in center.
  • Add onion and chicken broth; heat to simmering.
  • Add frozen vegetables and seasonings. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally until almost all liquid is absorbed.
  • Cool 5 minutes; stir in cheese.
  • In medium bowl, stir baking mixture ingredients with whisk or fork until blended.
  • Spoon 1 tablespoon baking mixture into each muffin cup.
  • Top with about 1/4 cup chicken mixture.
  • Spoon 1 tablespoon baking mixture onto chicken mixture in each muffin cup.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of pies from pan; remove from pan and place top sides up on cooling rack.
  • Cool 10 minutes longer, and serve.

This is a good, light dinner when everyone is busy doing their thing and makes an even easier lunch. Hope you like it, and if you are a food snob, find it in your heart to ditch the attitude about bisquick because it’s actually awesome.

~Nom on

Baked BBQ chicken drumsticks: Chicken-lickin’ good

I thought for my first post I would share a great recipe for baked ‘BBQ’ chicken. I personally don’t like grilling; it’s too much like baby sitting and I already have a toddler to baby sit every day. I need my cooking to happen without my undivided attention. I found this simple approach to getting the sticky, gooey mess I love about BBQ food without the fuss. I hope you enjoy it!

Baked BBQ Chicken

Baked BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

Ingredients

  • Chicken Legs or thighs (the bone-in, dark meat is jucier than boneless chicken breast.)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sweet Heat BBQ sauce 

Prep

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Brush meat with olive oil all over. (If you don’t like skin or are trying to cut calories and fat, take the skin off first.)
  • Lay out ckicken on a rimmed baking sheet
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper all over
  • Set timer and bake for 20 minutes
  • Brush chicken all over with BBQ sauce and bake for 7 minutes.
  • Repeat this cycle 2 more times

Chef’s Note: For the last round of baking, check the temp to make sure the chicken hasn’t already passed 160 degrees. If you have a tendency to end up with dry or chewy chicken, you are over cooking it. Meat continues cooking after it is removed from the oven, thus when a recipe calls to let the meat ‘rest’ that means let the meat finish cooking from it’s internal heat. In this world of paranoia over bacteria and food poisoning, it’s easy to cook the crap out of our food. I have lived through some gnarly boughts of food poisoning and people have lost their children to it, so I do not mean to imply it’s not a legit concern. I also aknowledge that our food system is completely toxic, but the truth is, meat tastes like shit when it’s over cooked and 165 degrees will do ya. Respect the internal temp, let the meat rest. 

Serve with fresh baguette or sour potato salad or whatever sounds rad and don’t forget to make loud, slurpy noises as you lick the sticky sauce off your fingers. This is an ancient Chinese secret for improving the flavor.

~Nom on