You grab a plate and make your way to the lady with the masa. She's slappin' out tortillas faster by hand than a machine could do...not that that seems odd to you- because it is everyday life. You take your steaming hot tortillas to the table with the carné...load 'em up...head over to the table with the huge vats of molé verde. The woman who made this slathers it over your plate and automatically sidehands some toasted ajonjoli in a steady sprinkling across the top. The tastes you love. The music you sing along with. The faces that bring you comfort. The atmosphere that...as a child...a teenager...a young adult...you think will never end, suddenly does.
Perhaps you don't realize it for a couple of years. You've gone out on your own...to a new country...to a whole new way of life. Independence day hides backstage in your mind as you become acclaimated with this strange new land and its traditions...its culture. As the years pass, and you've seen the celebrations of this new country's independence celebrated here, in July you begin to feel a hole. For a few years, you're not really sure why. What is it...this aching that resonates from a place so deep inside? While you love your family...the one you created as an adult, as opposed to the one you were born into and embrace the traditions that your esposa grew up with in this new country in which you live, you realize how much you miss the traditions you grew up with. The ones you thought would never end.
Lucky for you, you married a girl who loves to cook. And eat. And Mexican food is her favorite. And she embraces the culture in which you grew up, as well as her own. She yearns for her own children to know, love, embrace both sides...and you know that one day, when you have enough money, she'll be the first one on that plane or perhaps in that car, on that bus, on that train with her bags packed, her camera charged and her pencil and paper ready as you head back to the place of your birth to celebrate in the tradition of old México.
It's true. I love to listen to the stories that Mexi has to tell. He could write a book. He should write a book. A couple of days ago when he was telling me a story...one about dia de Independencia in Mexico...he mentioned the mole verde. That was all it took. I knew I was making it this year. After all, I'd been wanting to make it for many years, but I'm so in love with my "regular" mole, that I just hadn't gotten around to doing it yet. Even more perfect? The mole is Queretaro style...and that is where he is from. Now I can say that I have. It's pretty fabulous...all rich and silky and ...well... green! The best reward? Mexi sitting down to eat and saying in a soft voice... I feel like I went back in time.
Mole Verde Queretano
Chicken Breasts in Nutty Queretaro Green Mole
adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
1/2 pound fresh poblano chiles, roasted, stemmed & seeded
12 ounces tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 cup sesame seeds (ajonjoli), plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
1 small soft-ripe plantain, peeled sliced 1/2" thick
1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & rougly chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup roasted, skinless peanuts
1 large leaf of romaine lettuce
8 good-size sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
½ tsp. cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
scant ½ tsp. freshly ground aniseed
big pinch freshly ground cloves
5 cup chicken broth or stock, plus a little more if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
Roast tomatillos on baking sheet 6" below broiler until softened and a little brown on one side, ~3 mins., turn over and roast other side (don't blacken them...in order to keep sauce green). Transfer them w/ their juices to a large bowl w/ the prepared poblanos.
Toast sesame seeds for a few minutes in a hot skillet. Add to bowl. Repeat with almonds. Add all of the remaining ingredients except broth, oil, salt (1-2 teaspoons or so), and chicken to the bowl.
Stir in 2 cups of the broth and then purée in batches in a blender. Set a strainer over a large bowl and push the mixture through.
Set a medium dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. When it's hot enough to make a drop of the mixture sizzle, add it all at once. Stir for 4 minutes, as mixture thickens. Stir in remaining broth, partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for ~30 minutes, to allow the flavors to come together. It should be the consistency of a thick cream soup.
Turn oven to 350° F. Coat bottom of a 13 x 9" baking dish with some of the molé, lay in chicken breasts in a single layer, then ladle remaining sauce over them. Bake until chicken is just done, 20-30 mins. Transfer chicken to warm serving platter. Stir sauce to incorporate any juices, then add a little more broth if necessary to give sauce the consistency of a light cream soup. Ladle mole over chicken, sprinkle with extra sesame seeds and decorate with parsley.
Para usted, mi amor.