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Oregano marinated chicken breast with mole de Xico

Xico is a small town in the Veracruz state of Mexico known for its coffee plantations and exceptional cuisine, including moles. It is a small town where tourists stop on their way to a more common touristy location to get a taste of the excellent local cuisine.

In my world moles reign supreme. They are the epitome of gastronomy, deep, complex and wildly different from anything else. Mole is originally thought to have been created in either the Oaxaca or Puebla regions of Mexico. The actual origin of the word can be traced back to the Nahuatl word "mulli," which translates as "sauce". It traces a long history to pre-Colomian times and is a dish that has put Mexican cuisine on the world map.

This mole is no exception. Robust and complex this mole stimulates your taste buds. the mole starts sweet, from the sugar, prunes, raisins and chocolate, and moves to a complex spice palate that finishes with a perfect mild heat. The chicken is light from the orange juice and mildly flavoured with the oregano, complimenting the mole beautifully. This may be one of my favourite moles to date. Yes admittedly it is a lot of work, but the results are supreme and worth the effort.

Diana Kennedy is the queen of Mexican cuisine. She has received both Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle and membership in the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to Mexican cuisine and her work in the region. I have quite a few of her books, they are amazing and a must for anyone who wants to deep dive into Mexican cuisine. This book encompasses all the regions in Mexico and is filled with exciting recipes just like this one.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the mole:

12 mulato chillies

8 pasilla chillies

2 + 2 tablespoons oil or pork lard

1 small onion, sliced thinly

6 garlic cloves, sliced

6 cups water or chicken broth

1/3 cup almonds

1/4 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup pine nuts

11/3 cup pecans or walnuts

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/4 cup golden raisins

8 pitted prunes

1 tablespoon oil

1 small plantain

1 small slice of white French bread

1 small corn tortilla

1 large tomato, chunked

4 black peppercorns

4 cloves

1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick

1/4 cup jaggery or brown sugar

1 oz. dark Mexican chocolate

Salt, to taste

For the chicken:

6 chicken breasts, cut into strips

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

Juice of 1 bitter orange, sour orange or Indian sweet lime

Juice of 1 lime, if using bitter orange or Indian sweet lime

To serve:

Soft tacos

Taco shells

Grated cheese, queso Oaxaca or mild cheddar

Pickled jalapeños

Cilantro, minced

Scallions, cut into fine circles

Marinate the chicken strips in all the ingredients for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferred.

To make the mole:

Remove the soaking chillies and discard the seeds and stems. Blitz to a smooth paste with the strained soaking liquids. Set aside.

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil for 2-3 minutes till translucent but not coloured. Set aside to cool. Add the onions to the puréed chillies and blitz again to a smooth paste.

In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook the chilli-onion salsa till it is thick and the oils begin to pool on the surface, about 30 minutes. You want to cook this on low heat stirring often so you do not scorch the mix. Careful the sauce will splatter vigorously, this salsa will stain your clothes so wearing an apron is advisable.

While the salsa is cooking, dry roast all the nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans and sesame seeds. Cool and set aside.

Peel the plantain and cut it into even chunks. heat the oil on a frying pan and fry the plantain till is is lightly golden on all sides. Remove and add to the nuts.

Dry roast the black pepper, cloves and cinnamon stick till aromatic. Add to a small spice mill and grind to a fine powder. Add to the nuts.

Add the nuts, raisins, prunes and salt to the same blender, no need to wash it, and blitz with some of the stock to a smooth sauce.

When the salsa is cooked and glistens on the surface with the oils, add the nut purée and mix in well. Add the jaggery and chocolate. Cook for 30-45 minutes till the sauce is thickened and the oils again glisten on the surface. Again cook on low heat so you do not scorch the spices and chillies. Taste for salt and a balance of ingredients. It will be a delicious mole with notes of sweet, earthy spices and chillies on the afterpalate. Set aside. You can store the mole in the fridge for 2-4 days.

To serve:

Heat the mole in a saucepan till bubbling.

The chicken can be grilled on the barbecue till charred, about 3-4 minutes a side. Alternatively, layer them on a lined baking sheet. Heat the oven to 375° F. Bake for 30 minutes till the chicken is cooked through and charred in spots.

layer the mole in a wide shallow bowl. Top with the chicken and garnish with some cheese and cilantro if desired. Serve immediately with all the accompaniments.

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