I’ve been a big fan of mole sauce for years now. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an authentic Mexican sauce that traditionally involves at least 20 ingredients and sometimes more than 30 ingredients. For that reason, I can’t say that I ever gave any serious though to making my own at home until recently. I mean, I love a good cooking project, but I’m not trying to break the bank purchasing 30 different ingredients for one sauce. That is still very much the case, and so when a particularly strong mole craving hit me recently, I decided that I would figure out a way to make something resembling my favorite mole from my go-to Mexican joint in Chicago without using 30 ingredients, hence the term faux-le, and if I do say so myself, the result was a major success.
This faux-le is rich, complex, smoky and all-around amazing. Seriously. I made sure to incorporate a few of the more authentic ingredients to retain the traditional flavor and texture profiles that make mole really special, but I didn’t have to go to any specialty stores or deep-web farmer’s markets to get any of the components for the sauce. In fact, I had quite a few of the things I needed in my kitchen already.
Dark Mexican chocolate is the hallmark of a proper mole, and so – even though I didn’t scour the whole of England to find obscure varieties of dried Mexican peppers to use in this sauce – I did make sure to find 100% cacao dark Mexican chocolate for this recipe. It makes a big difference. If you’re thinking that you’re not someone who really likes super dark chocolate, trust me when I say that it’s the only chocolate worth using for mole sauce. It’s bitter and almost smoky, and once it’s melted into the mole, it comes through less like chocolate and more like a hint of very, very strong coffee.
In terms of other authentic ingredients, I included some almonds in this recipe, because I love the texture they add to the sauce. Almonds help create a nice, thick sauce, which is how any good mole I’ve ever had has always been. There’s also some cinnamon and orange juice in here, which are both traditional mole ingredients, and they really do help balance out an otherwise fairly spicy, smoky sauce.
In terms of less traditional ingredients, I decided to make this a Chipotle Mole by adding a pretty generous dose of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I love chipotle-flavored anything – the smokiness is very much something I’m into and using the juices along with the peppers is a nice lil’ shortcut toward creating your sauce and giving it tons of flavor.
Basically, if you’ve never had mole, or if you haven’t ever considered making it at home, this is a really friendly recipe to start with. It’s got a few ingredients, but nowhere near 30, and the result is a not-too-spicy, not-too-sweet, very balanced sauce that even a mole-skeptic could love. Plus, the tray of enchiladas takes less than hour to get together, from start-to-finish, and it can feed a whole family. Here’s the recipe to get you started:
Chicken Faux-le Enchiladas
For the Enchiladas
- 4 chicken breasts cooked and shredded
- 8 tortillas I use large flour tortillas
- 250 grams shredded mozzarella cheese see recipe notes
For the Mole Sauce
- olive oil
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander seeds slightly crushed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili flakes optional
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
- 1 tsp harissa paste use tomato paste to cut down on spice, if desired
- 200 g chipotle peppers in adobo juice this is one small can
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2.5 cups boiling chicken stock
- 30g Mexican dark chocolate, 100% cacao, chopped this is about 1/3 of a standard bar
Heat a large soup or stock pot over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion to the pot and saute until the onion has just softened, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir to combine. Saute another 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic.
Add the chili powder, coriander seed, cumin seed, salt, chili flakes, pepper, cinnamon and almonds and stir to coat the onion and garlic completely in the spices. Heat the spices for about 2 minutes, until very fragrant.
Add the harissa paste (or tomato paste) and stir until it's incorporated.
Add the chipotle peppers and their juice and stir to incorporate everything together, breaking up the larger chipotle peppers with the back of your stirring spoon.
Simmer the mixture for another 2 minutes, and then add the orange juice and stir to combine.
Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Note: I always use boiling stock when I'm adding it to recipes mid-way through the cooking process, like with this recipe, in order to avoid bringing down the temperature of what's already been cooked.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the chocolate and stir it in to melt it completely.
Take the pot off the heat and allow the sauce to cool slightly.
When the sauce is no longer extremely hot, add it to the blender and puree the mixture until it's completely smooth. Note: hot liquid expands in a blender, so don't fill your blender too full or you could end up with piping hot liquid everywhere. I always vent the top of the blender and put a towel over the top when blending hot liquids.
Return the sauce to the stock pot and simmer for about 5 more minutes, until it's thick and hot.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 160FAN and rub the bottom and sides of a baking dish with olive oil. Add about 1/4 cup of the mole sauce to the dish and distribute it evenly in the bottom of the dish. This helps make sure the enchiladas don't stick to the bottom of the dish as they bake.
Assemble the enchiladas by adding about 2 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup shredded chicken to each tortilla and rolling the tortillas tightly. Place the filled tortillas seam-side down in the baking dish and pack them tightly together. Cover the filled tortillas with any additional chicken that didn't fit in the tortillas and then pour all of the sauce over the top of the tortillas, taking care to get the corners and edges of the pan. Cover the entire pan with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and then bump the heat to broil for about 2 minutes to brown the cheese before serving. Serve piping hot with whatever garnish you like, enjoy! Note: I use mozzarella cheese when I can't find authentic Mexican cheese, because it's much milder in flavor than cheddar, and I don't want the cheese impacting the flavor of the sauce in any way. If you can find authentic Mexican cheese, like cotija, that's what I always look for first!