Well, who would have thought - chicken with chocolate? This version of the Mexican molé (pronounced "moh-lay") sounds bizarre, but combined with the chillies, spices and ground almonds, this dish turned out absolutely beautiful with a thick and luscious gravy that is fantastic with steamed white rice.
If you've never tried or heard of molé before, here's a definition from Epicurious:
From the Nahuatl molli , meaning "concoction," mole is a rich, dark, reddish-brown sauce usually served with poultry. There are many variations of this spicy Mexican specialty, usually depending on what's in the cook's kitchen. Generally, mole is a smooth, cooked blend of onion, garlic, several varieties of CHILES, ground seeds (such as sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds — known as pepitas ) and a small amount of MEXICAN CHOCOLATE, its best-known ingredient. (Some Americanized mole recipes use bitter chocolate.) The chocolate contributes richness to the sauce without adding overt sweetness.
When I first tried this dish, I thought it tasted a little like Malaysian satay (peanut) sauce because of the nuttiness from the ground almonds and the hint of spice from the chillies and ground coriander. The richness of the sauce also reminded me of Malaysian beef rendang, which is a dish of slow-cooked beef with onions, lemongrass, coconut milk, chillies and spices. So, it's sort of like a cross between rendang and satay sauce. Now, doesn't that sound like a divine combination? And if you're skeptical about the chocolate, don't worry. It adds a subtle exotic flavour to the dish, and you can barely tell that there's chocolate in there. We love this served over some steamed white rice, and that wonderfully thick and tasty sauce makes this dish so irresistable!
Chicken with Chocolate
Adapted from Chicken & Egg, by Laurence & Gilles Laurendon
5 small dried red chillies
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1.25kg (2 1/2 lb) chicken legs and thighs
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cup tomato puree (or 5 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped)
75g (3 oz) ground almonds (I used almond meal)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
40g (1 1/2 oz) dark bitter chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Small whole fresh red chillies for garnish (optional)
Soak dried chillies in warm water for 20 minutes until softened. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid separately. Deseed the chillies and chop finely. Place the chillies in a blender with 1 tbsp of the soaking liquid, and add the onions and garlic. Process to a smooth paste and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pan or casserole dish, then add the chicken and cook until browned all over. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, pour the blended onion mixture with the ground almonds, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper and tomato puree. Stir until well-combined and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add chocolate and stir until melted, then stir in the chicken stock.
Return the chicken to the pan, add salt to taste and bring gently to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Serve the chicken on a bed of white rice with the sauce poured over. Garnish with fresh chillies if desired. Serves 4-6.