The other night we were aware that LSU was playing for the national championship in football. As former Louisianans with direct ties to LSU, we should have been planning a big TV watching party complete with gumbo or that Monday night standby in New Orleans, red beans and rice. Instead we watched an old movie and enjoyed the last of some molé rojo which one of our daughters had sent to us as a Christmas gift. To be honest, we enjoyed the old movie more than watching the drubbing administered by the Crimson Tide, and the molé made a quick meal outstanding.
Classic molés have the reputation of requiring many ingredients and a long cooking process. Indeed, Rick Bayless presents his “streamlined” version in his excellent cookbook, “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico,” William Morrow and Company, New York, 1987, pp 201-203. For the recipe, go to the book, but I thought it would be interesting to provide the list of ingredients. The process involves many steps.
4 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed seeded and deveined
2 medium dried mulatto chiles, stemmed seeded and deveined
1 medium dried pasilla chile, stemmed seeded and deveined
1½ Tablespoons sesame seeds
⅓ Cup lard
2 heaping Tablespoons unskinned peanuts
2 Tablespoons raisins
½ medium onion, thickly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled
½ stale corn tortilla
1 slice dried, firm white bread
1 ripe medium tomato
3 medium tomatillos
¾ ounce Mexican chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf 8 peppercorns
1 inch cinnamon stick
5 Cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
Clearly, the real thing is a labor of love and considerable skill. If you can’t or don’t want to go to all the trouble, bottled versions are at hand. But you will have to be satisfied with second best. Still a handy jar serves as the basis for a quick meal.
Here is my version of quick chicken enchilada casserole – certainly not authentic – but a good supper dinner for a chilly winter evening.
2 chicken thighs
4 Cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano leaves, crumbled
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated + more for sprinkling on top of the casserole
2 ounces Monterey jack cheese, coarsely grated + more for sprinkling on top of the casserole
½ medium onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
8 fresh corn tortillas
2 Cups molé rojo Sour cream for topping
1. In a medium sauce pan, place chicken thighs in the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a low boil, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Strain the stock and reserve for another purpose. Cool the cooked chicken, remove the meat from the bones, and chop coarsely.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chicken, oregano, cumin, cheeses, and onion. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and heat for about 10 minutes at 180° in the oven until soft.
4. One at a time, fill the tortillas with the chicken mix, roll, and place seam-side down in a greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
5. When you have filled all of the tortillas, cover them with the molé rojo, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 300° until the enchiladas are completely heated and the cheese has melted.
6. Serve immediately with a generous tablespoonful of sour cream.