After Chef Rick Bayless demonstrated his famous mole at The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival, I couldn’t resist making a seasonally inspired version. Plus, any excuse to use pumpkin I am all for it!!! However, that being said, pureed pumpkin can be purchased year round so don’t limit yourself to solely when the leaves change colors!
Yield: 4 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours – see kitchen note
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
2 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and deseeded, cut into 1-inch pieces – see kitchen note
2 dried California chilies, stemmed and deseeded, cut into 1-inch pieces – see kitchen note
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 white onion, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces (onion must be white, not yellow)
5 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3 cups reduced sodium chicken stock, plus more if needed
1, 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt, as needed
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1. In a 5 – 7 quart Dutch oven over Medium heat, add oil and allow to heat, approximately 1 minute. Add both the guajillo and California chilies, cloves, cinnamon stick and peppercorns. While occasionally stirring, allow to toast until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
2. Add onions and garlic and cook while occasionally stirring until peppers start to turn white and onions are translucent and soft, approximately 5 – 7 minutes.
3. Add pumpkin seeds, chicken stock and pumpkin puree stirring until evenly combined. Bring to a simmer, remove cinnamon stick and transfer to a heat tempered blender, like my personal favorite, Vitamix.
4. Secure the lid and remove the small plastic venting cap replacing it with a kitchen towel. Blend on low then high until smooth, approximately 4 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, salt both sides of the chicken thighs. NOTE: in a traditional mole, seasoning consists of salt and sugar NOT salt and pepper.
6. Return to Dutch oven, add sugar and peanut butter stirring until evenly combined. Add chicken ensuring they are mostly submerged. Increase heat to medium – low, cover, and allow the chicken to cook until tender and shredding, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Occasionally, lift the lid and give the contents a stir adding more stock if a thinner consistency is desired.
7. Adjust seasoning to taste with additional sugar or salt if desired.
8. Serve chicken with pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro or parsley to finish.
9. Consider serving over rice and beans for a classic and traditional combination.
Kitchen Note: Traditionally mole simmers for hours (if not a few days) to really develop the maximum impact of flavor, but this quick version is still outstanding! If you have time, try serving it the next day or allow contents to simmer for 2 – 4 hours and the chicken is extremely tender.
Guajillo and California chilies are not hot (as in spicy) chilies and instead, offer a semi-floral and sweet flavor profile. Both of these can be purchased at Sprouts, Whole Foods (usually), and most major grocery stores in the ethnic aisle.
Mole is best the next day so consider making an extra large batch and saving some for tomorrow!