Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chicken Mole with Masa Cakes

This mole is a little fancier than my typical one. It's smoother, thicker, and chocolatier. It's also less messy to eat and it looks pretty good on a plate. Instead of rice, I use masa cakes.

For those of you not big into Mexican foods, masa is what you call the dough that used to make corn tortillas and tamales. While these cakes are true masa, they are close enough for government work. True masa requires that the kernels be ground, not chopped and blended. So, you either need to buy fresh masa at a Mexican market or tortilla factory, or buy dry masa flour and mix with water. The first option isn't going to happen... The second option makes cakes that aren't as good as these. The option here, the third, is to use canned hominy and whirl it in a food processor.

These are coarse, for what that's worth. But, they are really good.

Chicken Mole with Masa Cakes

Serves 4 (even for two, make it all. I'll give you tips at the end... If you just make half, what will you do with the extra hominy?)

Masa Cakes

1 29oz can hominy/~3 1/2 cups, drained (yellow is preferred, simply because it looks better. white is fine.)
1/4 cup water (approximately)
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter or good lard*, room temperature
3/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you're roasting garlic** for the mole, put them in when you turn the oven on.

I have a tiny processor, so I ground the hominy in two batches. 1/2 the hominy and about 1/8th cup of water, in my case. Use just enough water to allow it to grind well.

In a bowl, mix together all ingredients.

Grease 8 small ramekins well with butter or oil. Divide the dough evenly into all dishes and smooth down with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until they start to brown and the edges begin to slightly pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Remove from oven and loosen the cakes, but leave in the ramekins until just before serving.


2oz Dried Ancho Chilis (about a bag)
2oz Dried California, Guajillo, or other large dried, mild chilis (about a bag)
½ diced banana, slightly green tips preferred
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cloves roasted garlic ** or 1 clove raw garlic (all garlic is optional, depending on good breath needs, later)
2 cups water, plus more for thinning
2 tablespoons butter or good lard*
Some chocolate *** or 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt to taste
Sesame seeds (garnish)

Heat a large dry skillet over medium high heat. Add enough dry chilies to cover the bottom of the pan. using tongs, keep turning them as they puff up. They will become pliable and softer, probably. Keep going until the are very fragrant and dark, but not burnt. Set them aside and repeat until all chilies are toasted.

Break or cut the chilies open with scissors or your hands. Shake and scrape out most of the seeds and stems.

Put the chilies and the water in a blender jar and blend well. Add more water if necessary. Put a course strainer or fine colander over a saucepan, pour the chili mixture into the colander and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir and scrape the mixture, forcing the liquid into the pan, below. Discard the thick stuff in the colander. Rinse the blender jar out and then return the puree to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. If the garlic isn't done roasting, don't worry. Keep it all in the blender until close to the last minute.

When the garlic is done, discard the skins and add the cloves to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mole into the saucepan and heat it up over medium heat. Add additional water, if necessary. It should be just thick enough to stay in place on a plate. If it's too thin, simmer for a bit to reduce it.


1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil or a few sprays of non-stick spray or olive oil spray

Put a breast peice into a heavy ziplock bag or between a folder piece of plastic wrap. Zip it closed while squeezing all the air out of it. Place it on a cutting board and gently pound it flat using a flat meat mallet or heavy saucepan. Don't just hammer away, sort of work from the center, out, in wavs. They will slowly get flatter and even in thickness. Repeat with all the breast pieces. Set them aside on a large plate.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil or spray and swirl to coat. Cook chicken until nicely browned. Pounded chicken cooks quite a bit faster than thicker breasts, by the way. You can cut to see if it's done, as you'll be slicing it up afterward, anyway.

When the chicken is done. Allow it to sit on a plate for 5 minutes before slicing. When slicing, use a sharp knife and try to keep the pieces together. They will look better on the dinner plates if you lay out continuous pieces of chicken instead of a pile.

Putting it together

It's all done. Pour a puddle of mole on each plate, making sure you'll have enough to drizzle a bit on top of the chicken afterward. Lay two masa cakes on each puddle, then arrange 1/4 of the chicken on the sauce. Drizzle a bit more sauce on the chicken. Sprinkle the sauce with some sesame seeds for garnish.

Serve with a salad or steamed or sauteed zucchini.

* Someday I'll write up the recipe and some fine words on the beauty of lard, but today is not that day. In short, that gray lard on the shelf of your market is crap. Skip it and use butter.

** I usually have preroasted garlic in the refrigerator, but you can roast two cloves along with the masa cakes. Separate two cloves from the head. Smash them. Put them in a square of foil. Drizzle some olive oil on them. Gather the foil up to seal and toss it in the oven as the oven is preheating. Take them out when the cakes come out.

*** If you're making this for company, ask one of them if they have a piece of chocolate. People like that. It almost doesn't matter what it is, although M&Ms can leave colorful flakes that don't look good. They still work, just heat and stir and they'll go away. A few Hershey's kisses, a few squares of Hershey bar, Mounds. They all work. If all else fails, go with the cocoa powder or have a little dish of candy somewhere.

Tips for leftovers

If you're cooking for two, make all the masa cakes. The extras can be wrapped in foil or plastic wrap and reheated on a non-stick skillet. They go great with eggs.

Extra mole is great mixed with Ranch dressing for a chicken mole salad. That's where the extra chicken comes in, as well.

I make extra mole to add to omelets, eggs, tacos, to toss with steamed vegetables, or just to serve with meat. Add some vinegar and you've got a good bbq sauce, too.

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to point out that I'd accidentally doubled the amount of cocoa powder in the recipe. I've since corrected it.

    With 1 tbsp, it's already pretty chocolaty!


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