If we’ve learned anything over the past few months of quarantine, it’s that cooking at home has served as the most visceral method of travel. Plane tickets to France have been cashed in for a blueberry-studded clafoutis, pulled warm from the oven. Hunks of chicken, thrust upon skewers and slapped with turmeric and chili powder, are an ephemeral salve for the canceled Mumbai family trip. This type of cooking invariably pulls us toward a direction of normalcy, one where postponed vacations and socially distanced barbecues are not reality.
Related Reading: 11 of the Best Mexican Food Staples You Can Order Online
So for anyone whose vacation plans to Mexico were canceled in 2020, you’ll want to take a closer look at blogger Mely Martínez’s new cookbook, “The Mexican Home Kitchen.” The book inevitably won’t include sandy beaches and tropical drinks, but it will certainly take you on a culinary journey that spans parts of the eastern edge of the country, including the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Veracruz, Puebla, Estado de México, and Yucatán.
The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico, $25.20 on Amazon
Here, Mely compiles a range of dishes traditionally served in the home of many Mexican households. Mely, who runs the popular blog Mexico in My Kitchen, offers recipes for crispy rolled potato tacos, thinly pounded beef milanesa, and chicken in green salsa tamales. Along with the 85 recipes, Mely also walks readers through the staples of a Mexican pantry—from squash and tomatillos to beans and corn husks—as well as the tools and equipment she recommends working with.
Cuisinart 766-26 Chef's Classic 12-Quart Stockpot with Cover, $69.95
Ahead, Mely shares a recipe for her mole poblano, a dish that highly represents Mexican cuisine. The mole sauce, which is filled with a slew of wonderfully pungent ingredients like dried mulato peppers, anise seeds, and chocolate, can be drizzled on any dish that requires a mole sauce, but in this case Mely recommends working with a large roasted chicken. Once the mole sauce comes together, submerge the chicken in the sauce and let it simmer for 10 minutes, then serve with rice and tortillas.
Mole Poblano Recipe
Mole poblano is one of the most representative dishes of Mexico and its cuisine. The unique mixture of peppers, vegetables, spices, seeds, and chocolate make it a rich and exotic dish you need to try at least once in your lifetime. The preparation of mole poblano is generally a sign of a big celebration. I learned how to make it when I was very young from one of my aunts who lives in the state of Veracruz. You can use this mole for any dish that uses mole.
- CHICKEN: 1 large roasting chicken (6 to 7 pounds/2.7 to 3.2 kg), cut into pieces
- About 8 cups (2 quarts/1.9 L) water
- 1 small onion, cut into quarters
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig fresh cilantro
- 1 sprig fresh parsley
- Salt, to taste
- Mole Sauce: 6 dried mulato peppers
- 4 dried ancho peppers
- 6 dried pasilla peppers
- 4 cups (1 quart/950 ml) chicken broth or water
- 1 tablet Mexican drinking chocolate (about 3.2 ounces/90 g)
- ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon anise seeds
- ¾ cup (100 g) sesame seeds
- 6 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ cup vegetable oil (120 ml) or lard (120 g), divided
- ½ cup (70 g) raisins
- 1/3 cup (45 g) whole unskinned almonds
- 1/3 cup (50 g) raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup (35 g) peanuts
- 1 Mexican cinnamon stick (11/2 inches/ 4 cm long)
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- ½ medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
- 1 corn tortilla
- 3 small slices bread (such as a French baguette or Mexican bolillo)
- ½ large ripe dark-skinned plantain, peeled and cut into thick slices
- Salt, to taste
- To make the chicken: Place all the chicken ingredients in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 35 minutes. Use a spoon to skim off any foam that forms on the surface. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a large bowl, cover, and set aside. Strain and reserve the broth in the pot; you will use it to make the mole sauce.
- To make the mole sauce: It is important to have all the ingredients ready to go. Slice the peppers open using kitchen scissors or a knife, remove the seeds and the veins, and flatten them; this will help result in an even toasting. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the seeds from the peppers to use for the sauce. Bring the reserved chicken broth to a simmer, to soak all the ingredients in. You will add the ingredients to the pot after toasting or frying them. The soaking will make them softer and easier to grind.
- In a large skillet, toast the peppers a few at a time, on both sides, pressing them down as you turn them. They will quickly release their aroma. The toasting process takes only a few seconds, so don’t let the peppers burn. Place the toasted peppers and the chocolate in the pot with the broth to soak. Continue toasting the remainder of the peppers and placing them in the broth.
- Separately toast the reserved pepper seeds, coriander seeds, anise seeds, sesame seeds, whole cloves, and peppercorns (each of these ingredients needs to be toasted separately). Reserve 2 tablespoons (16 g) of the toasted sesame seeds to use for garnishing. Place all the other toasted ingredients in the pot with the chicken broth.
- 2 tablespoons of the oil (30 ml) or lard (30 g) to a large skillet and separately fry the raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts; fry the raisins until they are plump, then the almonds until they are well browned, and finally the pumpkin seeds until they swell up (be careful in this step, as they tend to explode and jump if heated too much), and finally the peanuts until they have a golden color. Drain any excess fat. Add these ingredients, along with the cinnamon stick, to the pot with the chicken broth.
- Fry the tomatoes and roast the garlic cloves in the skillet for about 5 minutes. If you prefer, you can choose to either roast or fry both the ingredients. Peel the garlic and add it to the broth along with the fried tomato. Fry the onion until golden brown and place it in the pot. Fry the tortilla and the bread in whole pieces until crisp and golden brown. Only add a little more oil or lard at a time, or it will be absorbed by the tortilla and the bread. Add these to the pot. Add the plantain to the skillet and fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Drain, using a slotted spoon, and transfer it to the pot.
- Once you have all the fried and toasted ingredients in the pot, you are ready to process them in a blender (it will look a bit messy). Add ½ cup (120 ml) of the chicken broth into the blender. Gradually add the mixture to the blender with a slotted spoon, and blend well, then add another ½ cup (120 ml) broth and continue to gradually blend the ingredients into a slightly fine paste. Try not to add any more liquid, unless your blender is having trouble blending the ingredients. Make sure to constantly free up the blades of the blender with a rubber spatula, in order to keep the blender from becoming stuck. You will have to do this in 2 or 3 batches until everything has been puréed. Blend the sauce one more time to get a smoother texture. If the end result is still coarse, pass the whole mixture through a strainer. You may not need to strain the sauce if you have a high-performance blender.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the oil (30 ml) or lard (30 g) to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mole sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan often with a wooden spoon to keep the sauce from sticking. Taste and season with the salt. Stirring constantly, continue to cook the mole over low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until it is very thick and becomes darker in color. The mixture will bubble and splutter, and pools of oil will form on the surface.
- Add the cooked chicken to the hot mole and simmer until the chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes.
- To serve, place a piece of chicken on a warm plate. Spoon on plenty of the mole sauce and sprinkle some of the reserved sesame seeds on top. Serve with the rice and tortillas.
Header image courtesy of "The Mexican Home Kitchen."