19 January 2011

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Mole

I've made enchiladas many times over the years, but the results have always been disappointing. I made a huge batch of something I called "deeritos" using leftover stewed venison once, and other attempts have been either too dry, too mushy, or generally unpleasant (I regretfully admit to using canned enchilada sauce once). I didn't rely on any particular recipe here, but as always I feel that technique is more important to master than ingredients, and certain things require some practice and botched meals. So I focused on making a really incredible sauce and assembling the enchiladas properly.

The filling was the easy part here. I braised chicken thighs with a couple of cans of tomatoes and peppers for about three hours. Not long enough for things to fall apart, but rather enough time for all the flavor to leach from the bones and for that lovely dark meat to get nice and succulent.

The sauce was rather more involved, as this marked my second attempt at a mole. For a thickener I started with a roux, then added in a lot of canned tomato sauce. At this point, I had the world's most boring marinara sauce, so I needed to amp up the flavor and get it in the direction of a good mole. I toasted and soaked a couple of dried ancho chiles, and added them to the mix with a handful of pearl onions. I ground cumin seed and merquén in a mortar, and then built upon that blend with some unsweetened cocoa powder. After an hour of simmering, I blended everything with an immersion mixer and let it simmer for an additional hour. At this point, it was time for straining. I wanted a nice smooth sauce, so I passed everything through a sieve. (This took a while, and made a mess. I need to get a chinois or figure out a better way to do this.) I thinned out the mole with chicken broth and resumed simmering.

I used small white corn tortillas, warmed up on a lightly oiled cookie sheet for a few minutes prior to stuffing. A little shredded chicken, a little Monterey Jack cheese, then placed seam side down in a baking dish prepared with a thin layer of mole on the bottom. In order to avoid the "casserole effect", I spaced the enchiladas a few centimeters apart and covered them with an even layer of mole. A little topping of more Monterey Jack, and then everything was thrown in the oven for about 20 minutes.

The result was just amazing. I had individual enchiladas that were not soggy or dried out, full of flavor, and rich beyond belief. I was only able to knock out two with a little salad, sour cream, and refried beans. The Roommate is not typically interested in these, but she ate her fair share and was unusually fond of the mole sauce. I'm getting more and more excited about mole, but since the process can involve dozens of ingredients and a lot of steps, it does tend to mess up a good bit of the kitchen. I'm thinking in the future I need to make the sauce and braise the meat on one day, and then do the assembly and baking on the second. I'm also thinking that I always need to double the amount of sauce I'm making and freeze half of it. Most of the process is balancing out the various flavors, and as long as you have 30 ingredients lying around you might as well save yourself some trouble in the future.


Joe said...

Sorry, man. "Deerito" just does not sound tasty. Actually, it's practically "Dorito", so I take that back.

Did you make your own tortillas?

1winedude said...

Mole is the shizz. Had that stuff in the heart of mole country in Queretero, Mexico - changed my life!

Benito said...


The Deerito never caught on, and won't be showing up at a Taco Bell near you. Venison can be fun with Mexican dishes (easier to get around here than goat), but you have to work some pork fat into it.

No, I didn't make my own tortillas. I have before, but life is too short for certain things. See also homemade bagels.


Benito said...

The Other Joe,

It's been fun, and different from other types of sauces. It requires a different style of thinking--you're not trying to master a classic French sauce, and most Thanksgiving gravy is just an afterthought to moisten dry turkey and dressing. With mole you put a ton of effort into making the sauce the center of the meal, with everything under it of lesser importance.