Chicken Mole Enchiladas

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When Jonji and I first really met he was telling my parents about his study abroad program in Oaxaca. I walked up to them, determined to insert myself into the conversation because, well, he was super cute, and he turned to me and said, “If you get the chance, you have to study abroad.” All these years later, I never did get to study abroad, but I did hear a lot about Oaxaca from Jonji—the beaches, the people, the chocolate, the mole, the mezcal—almost so much so that I feel like I went there myself. Funnily enough, I seem to have a bit of a soft spot for a place I’ve never even seen.

Any time Jonji sees a taco truck or a restaurant that includes the word “Oaxaca” in the signage, he immediately says, “That looks so good, let’s go there.” I roll my eyes since he really has no way of knowing they’re good, he just really likes Oaxacan food. But I suppose I did something similar recently when I was reading Bon Appetit and saw “Chicken Mole Enchiladas” and immediately ripped out the page for my recipe binder without even reading the recipe. We all have food biases, and this one paid off; these enchiladas are dark and a little sweet from the chocolate, which makes you feel like you’re getting a treat even though the food itself is quite healthy. I changed a few things from the Bon Appetit recipe in order to get the food to the table quicker (I only have so much time before my 1-year-old loses her mind) and I’m so happy with the result. To streamline the meal, make the chicken ahead of time. You can also make the mole sauce ahead of time if you’re feeling extra froggy.

Side note: Phoebe turned one this past week, which came as a bit of a shock even though it feels like she’s been around for years. We had a little party at the Rose Garden and I made two cakes and sourdough focaccia. It’s funny how babies can completely morph your sense of time; this year was simultaneously the slowest and fastest time of my life. This time last year we had just welcomed a mewling little being with relatively simple needs into our lives, and just one year later that same being has taken a few steps on her own, kind of says “doggy,” eats real food, and even has clear opinions and desires. Though it isn’t only parenthood that makes you marvel at the passage of time; it’s been a little over ten years since Jonji first told me about his trip to Oaxaca.

Make this recipe your own: for a vegetarian option, try using 1.25 lbs steamed potatoes plus 1 chopped and caramelized onion instead of the chicken.

Do Ahead: Make the chicken broth (and the chicken, obviously), sauce, and/or kale earlier in the day (or the day before).

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

makes 10 enchiladas in one 9x13in tray | adapted from Bon Appetit

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 of a yellow onion, rinsed and skin left on
1 rib celery, washed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt

2–4 dried ancho chiles*
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup mole sauce or mole paste
1 tbsp miso paste
2 tsp creamy peanut butter
1 tsp sugar
1.5 oz (1/4 cup) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (you can use chips)
1 bunch dino kale
8 oz jack cheese, shredded
10 corn tortillas

Spanish Rice (jump to recipe)
Refried beans

*I’ve made this recipe with 1 ancho chile and it was fine. It seems like the more chiles you use, the silkier and richer the sauce is. I recommend using at least 2 to achieve the right texture, but feel free to experiment.

Combine the chicken thighs, celery pieces, half an onion, and 1 tbsp kosher salt with 5 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside, then strain the broth into a large measuring cup or bowl, discarding the celery and onions. Don’t throw away that broth! You should have about 4 cups of broth.

Remove the stems and seeds from the ancho chiles. In a medium cast-iron pan, toast the chiles for a few minutes each side, until they’re softer and more pliable. Add them to a blender along with 2 cups of the broth and 1/3 cup raisins. Let this mixture soak for 20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup mole sauce, 1 tbsp miso, 2 tsp peanut butter, and 1 tsp sugar, and blend until completely smooth.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium heat and, once the oil is hot, add the chili mixture and cook, stirring often, until it thickens to the point of feeling like runny yogurt, 10-15 minutes. Add the 1.5 oz chocolate and 1-2 more cups of broth (the less chiles you use, the looser your sauce will be, so if it does seem quite loose at this point only add the 1 cup broth, but if it’s really thickening up go ahead and add 2 cups). Bring to a boil, stirring often, until the chocolate has melted and the sauce has thickened up again, another 5-10 minutes. Add salt as needed, and let cool until warm (or cooler).

Tear the kale leaves off of their stems and roughly chop all the leaves. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Wash the kale in a salad spinner or colander, then add the chopped kale to the pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and stir occasionally, until the kale has wilted but isn’t crispy or browned at all. Taste for seasoning. Let cool, ideally to room temperature (add the kale to a bowl and put it in the fridge if you’d like to speed up the process).

Shred the chicken in a medium bowl, then mix in the kale and half of the shredded cheese. Taste and add salt as needed.

Turn your oven to broil. Spray or oil a large baking sheet and layer as many tortillas on it as you can without much overlap (mine can do 5 or 6 in one layer). Spray with cooking oil (or brush with olive oil), then layer on the next 4-5 tortillas, then spray or brush those with oil. Repeat the process with all 12 tortillas, then broil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool for a few minutes so you can grab them without burning your fingers.

Turn your oven to 400°F.

Ladle 1/2 cup of the mole sauce into a 9×13 inch baking dish and spread it around so it covers the bottom of the dish.

Spoon roughly 1/3 cup or so of the chicken filling into one tortilla, fold one side of the tortilla over the mixture and then roll the whole thing over (like you’re giving the filling a little tortilla hug—the tortilla “arms” should hug the filling) so the seam is on the bottom. Place snugly in one corner of the baking dish. Repeat with all the tortillas, filling and packing them as tightly as you need to in order to fit all 10 (some will end up being horizontal while the others are vertical, which is fine). Pour the remaining mole sauce over the tops of the enchiladas, making sure to cover all of the exposed tortillas. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is lovely and melty.

Serve with Spanish Rice (recipe below), refried beans, sour cream, and lime wedges. Enjoy!

Spanish Rice

makes 3 cups | adapted from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville

1 cup basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 jalapeño, diced
1 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
fresh black pepper
2 cups boiling water
4 tbsp chopped cilantro

Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear. Set aside.

Heat the 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter in a medium-large skillet with a fitted lid. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup white wine and cook for another minute, until the pan is almost dry. Add the jalapeño, another 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp paprika, a big pinch of cayenne, and a few cracks of black pepper. Mix in the drained rice and cook for a minutes, stirring often, until the rice is heated through. Pour in the 2 cups boiling water, stir just to make sure all the rice is covered, and cover the pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is tender. Stir in the cilantro.

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