Holiday get-togethers aren’t cook-offs, but sometimes they feel that way.
Jenn De La Vega, author of “Showdown Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ: Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests” (Page Street Publishing, $22.99), has written a whole cookbook of competition-worthy dishes, and ahead of the Independence Day parties, I wanted to share her technique for making pulled chicken mole.
Traditional mole takes hours to make, but this version comes together quickly. De La Vega packs a ton of flavor into the sauce with nut butter, tahni, a chipotle pepper, dates and chocolate. That might sound weird if you’ve never had mole, but give it a try. Feel free to double this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.
Pulled Chicken Mole
4 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock
2 dried ancho chilies
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup chunky nut butter
1/4 cup dates
2 tablespoons tahini
3 medium shallots, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 1/2 tablespoons dark chocolate, chopped
Salt and pepper
Tortillas or slider buns, for serving
Place the chicken in a pot and cover with the stock; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the meat is tender and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Drain and save the stock; set the chicken aside.
Using about 1 cup of the reserved stock, reconstitute the dried chili peppers in the pot. (You’ll have to reheat the stock if it has cooled.) Carefully fish them out with tongs when they are soft. Remove the stems and place in the bowl of a food processor with the chipotle, cinnamon, clove, nut butter, dates and tahini. Pulse until the larger pieces are broken and blend on low until it forms a smooth paste.
In a large pan, sauté the shallots in vegetable oil until they soften for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more before adding the tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and add the spiced paste from the food processor.
Cook for 15 minutes on medium, until the liquid cooks off. Strain 1 cup of the chicken stock cooking liquid into the sauce and stir. Just like risotto, as the liquid cooks off, add another cup of the chicken broth, until you have one left. At that point, take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
As the sauce cooks, cool the chicken and debone it. Pull the chicken apart, making sure no pieces are bigger than the width of your thumb.
Fold the meat into the sauce and serve immediately, or if you’re not eating just yet, add the last of the broth and cover. Keep warm in the oven at 200 degrees until you’re ready to eat.
If you’re eating later, cool the mixture down and store in the fridge overnight. An hour before serving, add the remaining chicken broth before heating it back up. Serve with tortillas or slider buns. Serves 4 to 8.
— From “Showdown Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ: Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests” by Jenn De La Vega (Page Street Publishing, $22.99)