Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chicken Mole to Pair with a Zinfandel Wine

I have now gotten all my ducks in a row, referring to the appetizers to pair with wines for the upcoming wine tasting event, to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen area. I have all the appetizers tried and tested and have been making parts that can be frozen ahead of time. The event is just two weeks away, so the time will be upon me very shortly. I'd been merrily working away, making sure all the foods will pair with the wines' styles and flavors. And then Friday I was informed two of the wines I selected would not be available, and I needed to choose others!


I was really looking forward to the Barbera wine, as I do not believe I have actually tried one before. This is the wine I created the little Pork & Chicken Mini Sausage Sliders to pair with, specifically. Back to the wine list to try and see what might be the best pairing, as there were no other Barbera wines on that list. Ultimately, and only after a long process, I selected a Merlot. While Merlot would not necessarily have been a first choice or even second, it seemed to be the most similar to a Barbera in the types of foods to pair, the flavors associated with the wine and perhaps even the viscosity. All that aside, the other wine that was taken off my list was the Zinfandel I had chosen. This particular one was easier to replace, as there were quite a few Zinfandels on that list. 

Chicken in Mole Sauce served on Masa Corn Cakes
As it happens, the appetizer I created to pair with the Zin was Chicken Mole (pronounced MO-lay) served on Corn Masa Cakes. Obviously, not all Zinfandels (or Barberas or Cabernets or any other varietals) are necessarily created equal, but I have some confidence, after researching the new Zinfandel selection, that it should pair with the Mole equally well.

Initially I had some difficulty with settling on a base for the mole - meaning what it will be served on. I finally came up with a Corn Masa Cake concept. I did not want just a thick tortilla, though I did want corn as the flavor base. Initially, I had some Bob's Red Mill Corn Masa flour and used that mixed with some cornmeal and a little all-purpose flour. These little resultant cakes were perfect - except that I wanted to be able to cut them open, serving the chicken mole on the cut side. These little cakes were far too thin to cut open easily, though the flavor was precisely what I wanted. However when I went shopping for the actual ingredients, there was no Bob's Red Mill Masa flour available. Instead I bought Quaker brand corn tortilla flour, not realizing that this brand had lots of things added to it already. It didn't look the same or smell the same and by golly it did not act the same when mixed up, either. 

My Corn Masa Cakes
Still, once done tinkering a bit with the recipe, the results were even better than the original little cakes. They came out nearly the size of the little mini English muffins I made: similar thickness and a nice heft, certainly capable of holding a dollop of Chicken in Mole Sauce! As a matter of fact, I am planning to make them as biscuits for breakfast one of these days - they were THAT good! I proceeded to make various batches of the Corn Masa Cakes (I think calling them Corn Masa Biscuits would be more apt, but I already termed them "cakes" on my posters for the event). I sliced them and froze them. The mole is all made and ready, and I have only to shred chicken to add in for the event.

These Corn Masa Cakes or Biscuits can be made in formed cakes as I did for the wine event, though the dough is almost a batter. It can be formed, if one has nicely oiled hands when forming them. I made them much as I made the mini English muffins, baking them first on a griddle at 350 degrees and then in a 350 degree oven to finish them off. I have not yet made them as drop biscuits, but my thought is possibly to bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Once I actually test this, I will note the results here.

Corn Masa Cakes / Biscuits

Very soft dough set on griddle to bake
Makes 8 small cakes, 2 1/2 inches in diameter

1 cup Quaker Corn Tortilla flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (I used Quaker)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lard or butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup tepid water

In a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the dry ingredients. Add in the lard and cut in or let the paddle attachment do the work, until coarse crumbs have formed. Add in the water all at once and mix for about 2 or 3 minutes. Set the bowl aside for at least 15 minutes, and up to an hour. 

If forming the little cakes, Spray hands with cooking spray or have a little cooking oil on hand. With well-greased hands, scoop up a small amount. If weighing, to ensure they are all evenly sized, I weighed each ball at 1.5 ounces. Roll quickly into a ball, then set on a well-greased surface while the remainder are formed. Press the tops gently, spreading them to a relatively flat surface. When ready to make them, have a griddle handy, set to 350 degrees. Use a spatula to transfer the little soft cakes to the griddle. Bake them for about 4 minutes per side, then set them on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for another 5 minutes, to set the centers. If making these for appetizers, as for the mole recipe below, you will need more than 8, so double or triple the recipe as needed.  Split the little cakes open before using.

Unhulled Sesame and Green Pumpkin Seeds, toasted
If anyone is unfamiliar with Mole sauce, it is most often thought of as Mexican, and often called Mole Poblano. I learned to make mole sauces when I lived in Guatemala, and the mole sauce in Guatemala is different, though it can be altered in any number of ways to personalize it. Generally, it is sauce made with a base of tomatoes, tomatillos and red bell pepper and/or dried red chiles. Seeds such as sesame and pumpkin are toasted and added, generally along with some cinnamon and possibly other things like cloves, allspice and pepper. Chocolate is the final defining characteristic of this sauce. I have not made a Mexican Mole sauce, but have seen various chefs on TV and read in books and online where sometimes raisins and/or peanuts are also added in. Not in Guatemala though, and I really love the Guatemalan sauce. I did decide on adding in raisins. My reasoning was that I wanted just a hint of sweetness. I initially thought of adding in just a little sugar. But when thinking further, I felt that the raisins would give that little hint of sweetness far more naturally. 

Be advised, you will need to go to a Health Food store or online to find the unhulled sesame needed for this recipe (as well as the pumpkin seeds). The seeds need to be toasted lightly to bring out their flavor, and it is impossible to toast the shiny little hulled sesame seeds found in spice jars on shelves in the store. These, without the hull, are shiny and the oils come out immediately, causing them to burn in the hot pan.

For this event, I want as much to be easy as possible, so I am using a store-bought rotisserie chicken, removed from skin and bones and well shredded. This Chicken and Mole sauce can be eaten as a meal. Serve over rice, with a side of tortillas! This will serve 4 to 6 as a meal. So...

Chicken in Mole Sauce

Chicken in Mole on Masa Corn Cakes

3 tablespoons green pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds
1-inch true cinnamon stick, crumbled
2 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 tomatillos, husk removed
3 or 4 Roma tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 Pasa or Ancho (dried) chile
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 slices bread
2 tablespoons lard or butter
1 ounce unsweetened bakers chocolate
1 whole rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, shredded
cilantro for garnish

Heat a dry skillet very hot. Add in the sesame seeds and stir quickly and constantly for a couple of minutes, or until they are lightly toasted and have been making tiny little snapping noises as they pop from the heat. Once toasted, turn them out to a plate to cool. Return the skillet to the burner and add in the pumpkin seeds. Stir quickly and constantly until they pop and have lightly browned in spots. DO not over brown! Turn out to the plate. Add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and peppercorns and stir quickly and constantly until they are very fragrant, and turn them out to the plate to cool. Set aside. 

If you own a Vita-Mix blender, all the sauce ingredients can go into the same blender container with the vegetables in the next step. If not, the spices should be ground very finely in a mortar with pestle or in a spice grinder. 
Size of the little appetizer portion

In a saucepan with water, cook the tomatoes, tomatillos, red bell pepper (seeds, stem and membranes removed), Pasa chile and the raisins until all the ingredients are soft. With a slotted spoon, remove the Pasa chile to a plate. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender with the slotted spoon and then add in the salt. To the remaining water, add the bread to soak, then add the bread to the blender. Discard the remaining water and wipe the pan dry. Remove the stem and seeds from the Pasa chile, then add this chile to the blender. Puree all the ingredients until very smooth.

Place the lard or butter in the saucepan and set it back on the burner on medium low heat. Pour in the blender ingredients and the ground spices (if not blended together). Stir to combine, and add in the chocolate to melt. The mixture will be thick and will spatter and burn. Be extra cautious and have a lid handy. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and combined. Allow the sauce to boil for a few minutes to meld the flavors.

Add the shredded chicken and stir. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

If using this Mole recipe for appetizers, use about a tablespoon of the chicken mole per corn masa cake. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.