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Back to Basics a la Norristown

March 13, 2009

Partially due to laziness, and partially do to the amount of time I’ve spent in the kitchen lately (still love it, but DAMN it’s been a rough week), I felt the urge to go back to my “local inspiration ” (actually, I wanted Qdoba…but since they’ve gotten rid of their Chicken Mole Burrito, they’re dead to me).

So, I guess I got really local with Norristown. Its no shock to anyone that’s been around here that this neighborhood has a lot of “cultural flair” (says my inner tour guide).

We’re a very heavily Hispanic neighborhood, to the point that there is a wider array of supermercados then supermarkets. Its one of the reasons I could move here – the diversity seemed to mirror Philly on just a bit smaller of a scale. And I dig that.

I’d never have gotten into tomato paste and cilantro and beans had I not been digging through the corner stores. And I definitely wouldn’t have found Mole Paste.

Let me explain for a minute about Mole sauce. It’s chocolate sauce, its thick and delicious and just about my favorite Mexican dish I’ve encountered. And because its got a bit of heat, the husband likes it, too. The downside is it’s a very homemade dish – the muy authentico Mexican restaurants in Ntown fight about who has the best mole the way the cheesesteak wars over take Philly (how prevalent is the cheesesteak war?Ha!).

And to make mole sauce? Without mole paste? The list of ingredients is damn near a dozen items long – and they’re all items I’m sure I could find in the nice, local supermercado, if it wasn’t for 1) the language barrier and 2) the fear of seeming insulting for trying to invade what is obviously a very exclusive mole-making club.

That being said, with the help of mole paste, holy mole, batman, I can rock out a damn good chicken mole, to the point that this was part of my regular programming, cook-wise. My thinking was that it would be fun to go back to a standard dish now that I have a clue of what I’m doing in the kitchen and since I’ve been wholly ignoring my typical repertoire.

So with the boy neck-deep in midterms and craving something “normal,” combined with the spring-fiesta-like weather, it all fell into place. And you get a recipe out of it.

Yes, this recipe requires mole paste, which is 1) not local and 2) not for purchase in Whole Foods OR Trader Joe’s. But I got what you want, right down the street, and I’ll send it via postal mail. Just leave me a comment requesting it. My gift to you, all five of my readers.

Norristown Pablano Mole

Boneless skinless chicken breast (1 per person)
Flour for dredging, seasoned to taste with kosher salt and black pepper
Rice of your choosing

1/3 cup Mole paste (per person)
4 Garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1/4 cup coco powder
1 tblsp cinnamon

And, if you got’em – a couple of diced tomatillos, tomatoes, a cherry pepper for some nice heat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So putting this thing together, we dredged the chicken in the flour/salt/pepper combo. Heat a bit of canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat, add chicken browning the first side to make a good crust (about 2 minutes) and then flipping to brown on the second side. Add garlic and saute. Remove chicken from pan and tent with foil.

Mole time 🙂 Reduce heat to medium. Add the mole paste, garlic, and any other diced items to the oil and garlic still in the pan. Add chicken stock a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring in with the mole paste and giving the stock a chance to reduce. Stir, scraping sides and brown bits off the bottom of the pan, using stock to clarify the pan.

****What I’ve learned recently is that apparently the stock counts (who woulda thought!) – I made my own batch last weekend, and the husband said this mole turned out the best yet. Take that stupid store bought stock!

After the first cup of stock is well added, add the chicken back in and any juices that have accumulated in the dish. Add in final 1/2 cup of stock, coco powder, and cinnamon, stirring in together and allow to simmer and reduce for 10 mins.

Here’s where you really want some rice and guacamole to finish off the meal, and a bit of mild cheddar to sprinkle over the chicken once its placed on the plate (evens out the spice well, plus its really pretty).

Yeah, give that a try, and since its my first recipe I’ve ever written, so let me know if theres a need for clarification, or if something isn’t working so well. Because when it works, its De.Lic.Ous.

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