Thursday, May 14, 2009

Family Secrets

Blanca’s sister Darling has taken over the kitchen, and I am in heaven. I get the double treat of being cooked for and served, and learning from the Alcaraz family master chef. From everyday standards like rice and beans to holiday delicacies like home-made tamales, Darling has perfected every Mexican dish I’ve ever dreamed of. Her recipes are hard to transcribe because in true Alcaraz family style her standard measurements are “just a little,” to “not too much,” “plenty,” and my favorite, “till it looks about right.” I probably don’t need I say, the result is always perfect.

I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food, and love new taste combinations, but there’s one Mexican dish I will never order: mole. The combination of chocolate, sesame seeds, hot peppers, and salty broth, usually served over chicken or enchiladas, when I’ve ordered it in restaurants, reminds me of something like spicy cardboard. I never would have imagined that mole could be the taste sensation it is when Darling makes it: perfect delight. Don’t try this in a restaurant.

Darling’s Chicken with Mole

For the chicken and broth

1 whole chicken, divided (she cuts it into legs, thighs, wings, breasts, and a few other chunks)

1 large pot of water

1 onion


Salt and pepper

Boil for about an hour, or until chicken is very tender. Remove from heat but leave chicken in hot broth.

For the mole:

About 1 cup mole. The best is Tecampana’s red mole, made in Mexico. If you have to use a brand more readily available, use Doña María (most Latin American specialty stores will carry this), and as you start to heat it add about ½ cup fresh bread crumbs.

About 1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil, then add the mole and stir well. Add about one cup of the chicken broth plus as much of the onion as you can get, leaving the chicken in the remaining hot broth. Stir well. Pour into a blender and blend for a few minutes. Return to suacepan or work and in about 1-cup increments and stirring constantly, add chicken broth which you continue to scoop out of the pot with the chicken still in it, now avoiding any remaining onion. Once you have 4-6 cups of broth mixed in, continue stirring while the sauce thickens. When it’s about the thickness of gravey, turn the heat off and add the chicken pieces. Cover and let sit for about 30 minutes. You can then serve, with rice, or set this aside in the fridge for up to two days and reheat. It gets better with time.