One great taste we can count on when we make our yearly trip down to Mexico is indulging in a good meal that includes some sort of mole sauce. Rich in flavor and complexity.
For the recent Chopped Theme Supper Club that we hosted one of the first thoughts that came to mind when our ingredients included; pear, hazelnut, chocolate and cayenne was making some sort of a version of a mole.
And when we think authentic Mexican flavors we most often turn to G's hero Rick Bayless. G has made several of Rick's mole recipes. Often these recipes include a very long list of ingredients, many steps and a requirement of most of the day to prepare. But always delicious they are worth all of the requirements.
For this event we needed something a bit more simplified and something that we could tweak a bit. So when we came across his recipe for a contemporary style Roasted Cornish-Hens with Apricot-Pine Nut Mole in his Mexico One Plate At A Time cookbook we were both excited that we could easily see some adaptations that could be made.
Right away we both thought that swapping the Pear for the Apricot was doable. And then Hazelnut for the Pine nuts seemed also allowable.
We started with roasting some tomatillos.
Then reconstituting and frying some chiles.
Yes, that's always Rick's style Frying the chiles gives them such a depth of flavor that little bit of oil is well worth the benefit it brings to the overall complexity of the sauce.
While tomatillos were roasting and chiles were frying we had hazelnuts roasting as well.
Now the ingredient choices included chocolate. We didn't specify Mexican chocolate per se when assigning the ingredients for the challenge but we did take that liberty in making our recipe.
Mexican chocolate is a bit more sweet than what we are used to eating and definitely weirdly granular as well. But perfect for a mole sauce.
Next we added a mixture of 3 different varieties of pear.
At this point all of the ingredients for the sauce went into the food processor to bring together the most wonderful of flavors.
Now we did skip a step or two that Rick has in his recipe but we were trying to make this doable in a 2 - 3 hour total time period. And we think it turned out pretty wonderful even though we did skip a process or two.
The sauce was then strained through a fine sieve and the put back into the dutch oven to simmer to deliciousness. We actually did all of the steps up to here the night before. Before pulling the mole off the stovetop and going to bed it was tasting and definitely smelling pretty fantastic.
About 45 minutes before our Supper Club serving time we put the mole back on the stovetop and prepped our hens.
The hens went pretty quickly. Brush lightly with olive oil then sprinkle with salt & pepper. Baked in the oven for 35 minutes. Also to note Cornish hens are really such an inexpensive but elegant choice to make for a crowd.
We then put sauce down on each plate and sprinkled it with a mixture of toasted sesame seeds and chopped roasted hazelnuts.
These little hens were so, so good. And really so, so doable. Maybe not on a Wednesday night but definitely doable as weekend meal. It's a version of mole we'll definitely make again.
Roasted Cornish Hens with Pear-Hazelnut Mole (8 hens)
(adapted from Rick Bayless' Roasted Cornish Hens with Apricot-Pine Nut Mole)
6-8 medium tomatillos, husked & rinsed
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup hazelnuts, roasted , peeled & chopped
1 cup pears, peeled and cubed
10 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 ounces Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
1 slice firm white bread, darkly toasted and broken
6 tablespoons sugar
8 Cornish game hens, brushed with olive oil
Sprigs of parley for garnish
1) Husk, rinse and roast tomatillos under broiler until blackened. Scrape blackened tomatillos into a bowl.
2) Stem & seed chiles. Heat vegetable oil in pan. Tear chiles into flat pieces.Fry chiles, flipping constantly. Remove from oil when brown. Place in bowl. Cover with water, submerge and let set for 30 minutes.Drain.
3) Fry garlic in same pan.
4) In food processor add 1 cup broth, tomatillos, chiles, pears, roasted hazelnuts, garlic, cinnamon, chocolate, cayenne, pepper, cloves, half of the sesame seeds and bread. Pulse until smooth. Press through a sieve and back into the bowl.
5) In dutch oven with a light coating of olive oil add the puree. Stir nearly constantly over medium-high heat until consistency of tomato paste, 10-15 minutes.
6) Add the remaining broth. Combine thoroughly. Simmer gently over medium-low, stirring frequently...45 minutes. Should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
7. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and prep hens. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place on baking sheet with breast side facing up. Roast for 35 minutes, until juices run clear.
8) Ladle mole onto plate.Set hens in sauce. Sprinkle with remaining toasted sesame seeds and chopped hazelnuts. Garnish with parsley.