Mole (pronounced MOH-lay) Poblano is upscale Mexican sauce that's piquant with a hint of chocolate and a slight sweetness that is typically reserved for festivals and holidays. There are as many Mole Poblano recipes as there are Mexican grandmothers (and home chefs) but the core ingredients are similar. If you like mole sauce, you should add my recipe to your "must make" list.
My Chicken in Chocolate and Chile Sauce (Mole Poblano de Pollo) went from "what you've got now isn't edible" to "this is great" "definitely make it again". My husband normally is quite supportive of my recipes but I admit he was right. The "classic" recipe I modified and eventually abandoned called for bittersweet chocolate and an overpowering amount of cloves which had ruined this gorgeous sauce. That is until I made a mid-course correction.
Chicken or the more traditional bird for a mole, turkey, is cooked until tender in water while the sauce is made. I cleaned several ancho chiles and soaked them in homemade chicken stock, and measured out the almonds (some combination of almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and/or sunflower seeds is traditional), onions, tomatoes, raisins, sesame seeds, and garlic .These are all the ingredients of a Mole Poblano.I threw the mixture into the blender jar and whirred it into a thick creamy sauce before putting it into a large skillet and cooking it down. The most important ingredient is chocolate which is unsweetened or bittersweet. I prefer to use fair trade and organic chocolate. Be careful not to burn the chocolate -- keep the flame low.
Most recipes include a tortilla that's been broken up or pieces of stale white bread that gets blended into the sauce as a thickener.
In my research I found wild variation from recipe to recipe on spice measurements. Cinnamon is common to most and so are ground anise or fennel seeds. I had anise and ground it in a spice mill along with all the other spices listed in the recipe. I share with you that recipes vary with 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of each spice per five cups of liquid which is made up primarily of tomatoes and chicken stock. I made a good guess that 1/2 teaspoon of each spice was a perfect compromise. Slightly less common are coriander seeds, many recipes include fresh cilantro and cloves (I recommend 1/8 of a teaspoon - no more!). Of the dozens of recipes I read, one included allspice berries
After adding the chocolate, my sauce lacked any hint of sweetness. It was downright bitter and uber clovey. In coming up with a game plan for "fixing" the ruined sauce, I had to think on my feet. More tomato would dilute the clove, check, a little sugar would sweeten the bitter chocolate flavor, check, and peanut butter, yes peanut butter, would help neutralize the bitterness even more. After adding more pureed tomatoes, I added sugar and peanut butter just one tablespoon at a time tasting between each addition. The recipe below is the perfect combination of piquant and slightly sweet (at least according me my husband's and my palettes).