I’m no Andrew Zimmerman, but I’ve tried some pretty crazy stuff in my day….fried grasshoppers (surprisingly bacony), goat stomach (intestinally gritty), and bush rat (predictably swampy)….and all of these in East Africa, where the chances to eat and interact with wildlife of all sorts were plentiful.
The year I spent teaching in South Sudan was spent living in a mud hut called a tukul, which was basically an extension of the earth. So naturally, critters of all shapes and sizes made their way in and tried to establish themselves as pets.
…a colony of termites (which we doused with baby powder, having heard it kills them).
…a moth about this big (which I speared into a corner using a bamboo pole).
…a chicken (which laid an egg on my co-teacher and friend Jen’s pillow while we taught).
and of course
…the rat (our term of endearment for the many rodents who invaded our space over the course of the year, climbing mud walls, chewing through bags to get into our airmailed candy, and generally being ratlike and disgusting).
Outside of our humble hut, there were roosters who crowed hours before dawn, goats who bleated well into the night, lizards who scurried out of latrines as you walked in, and even the occasional giant snake.
Regardless, I loved it. And I miss living and traveling in places that are stranger and more beautiful than what I read about in National Geographics growing up. But maybe there’s something about being 7 months pregnant because I was more than happy to rental car and air condition my way through our vacation in Florida last week. I can’t say that Ft. Myers, was the most exotic place I’ve ever been to, but the gourmet Mexican fare we had last week was pretty inspiring nonetheless.
Because I only got a small bite of the chicken mole on Eric’s sampler plate, I came home and immediately resolved to make a crockpot chicken mole my friend Annie had told me about. I had never tried mole sauce before last week, and I was so excited to put one together myself.
With tomatoes, onions, dried ancho chilies, chipotle chilies, almonds, raisins, garlic, spices, and chocolate in the sauce, how could you not be intrigued? Plus, the crockpot simmers it all to perfection while it cooks up chicken that’s juicy and tender. We were not disappointed. This mole sauce packs a huge flavor punch – a little bit spicy with just the right amount of sweet (gracias, raisins and chocolate) to balance it out. We served this over the recipe’s recommended rice pilaf and were majorly pleased with ourselves. Plus, it makes a ton, so you can freeze individual meals for yourself and pull them out for lunches.
You should make this. Even if a sauce with chocolate and chilies intimidates you. Then, as it cooks and fills your house with deliciousness, you should sing “Mole! Mole! Mole! Mole!…Mole! Moooooooleeeee!” and cheer your meal on as many others do their football.
Comment Challenge: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
(yields 10 servings)
This crockpot recipe comes together so easily. You can even put all of the ingredients together the night before, refrigerate, and throw it all in the crockpot the next day if you're on the go. I adapted it by using chicken breasts instead of thighs, and more raisins and cumin than the original recipe called for. I highly recommend serving this with the included rice pilaf recipe- the texture and taste of the rice with this dish was delicious!
Chicken Mole Ingredients:
2.5-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
coarse salt (to taste)
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes (I used chopped frozen ones from our garden)
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded*
1 large chipotle chile in adobo sauce**
1/2 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/2-3/4 c. raisins
3 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 tbps. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Rice Pilaf Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, minced (in a pinch, I've used a 1/4 of a yellow or white onion)
1 c. brown rice
coarse salt and ground pepper (to taste)
1 dried bay leaf
2 c. hot water
1 c. frozen peas
3 tbsp. almonds, chopped or sliced
Chicken Mole Instructions:
Lightly grease the crockpot.
Season chicken thighs/breasts with salt and place in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker.
In a blender or food processor, puree tomatoes, onion, ancho and chipotle chilies, almonds, raisins, chocolate, garlic, oil, cumin, and cinnamon until smooth.
Add tomato mixture to slow cooker, stir, cover, and cook on high until chicken is tender, 4 hours (or 8 hours on low).
Serve chicken and sauce topped with cilantro.
Rice Pilaf Instructions (reheats well if you want to make it the night before to serve with your crockpot meal the next day:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
Add shallot and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring, until fragrant and toasted, 2 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and add bay leaf and hot water.
Bring to a boil over high; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and water is mostly absorbed (about 35-40 minutes).
Add peas and almonds. Cover and cook until peas are warm and water is absorbed, 5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve.
*Ancho Chilies can probably be found in your grocery store's "ethnic" aisles.
**Chipotle Chilies in Adobo Sauce come in a can. Since you're only using one, throw the rest (sauce included) into a ziploc bag and press until flat and the chilies are separated. These freeze really well and can be broken off and used in the future, one at a time.)