POLLO ALMENDRADO

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POLLO ALMENDRADO
Chicken with Almond Mole

The custom of baptism has numerous charms: the infant’s dress, the invitations, the church ceremony, and, naturally, the pleasures of the dinner offered in celebration. Traditional dishes are often served, among them almendrado, one of the seven classic moles of Oaxaca. Almonds symbolize the essence of life, so they are perfect in a baptismal dish.

FOR THE CHICKEN:
10 cups water
2 medium white onions, peeled and quartered
2 garlic heads, roasted and peeled
1 cinnamon stick, 4 inches long
8 whole cloves
salt, to taste
2 chickens cut in pieces, or 4 whole chicken breasts or 8 split chicken breasts, approximately 4¼ pounds total

FOR THE SAUCE
1¼ cups lard or vegetable oil
1½ medium white onions, peeled and quartered
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups almonds, blanched
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cinnamon stick, 4 inches long
4 whole cloves
16 black peppercorns
1 croissant, torn in pieces
4 large, ripe tomatoes, roasted
8 dried chiles anchos or dried red California chiles, washed, very lightly roasted, seeded, and deveined and soaked in hot water
2 slices white onion

FOR THE GARNISH
1 can chiles largos or chiles jalapeños (optional)
¾ cup finely chopped blanched almonds or peanuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Prepare the chicken: Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and chicken. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the chicken is partially cooked. Allow it to cool in the broth. Then remove chicken from the broth and reserve both chicken and broth. Strain the broth.

Prepare the sauce: Soak dried chiles in hot water to soften. Once chiles are rehydrated, devein, seed, and remove any stems. Lightly roast chiles and tomatoes. Heat ¾ cup lard in a large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, almonds, peanuts, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and croissant. Cook for 25 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick, add a little more oil or lard. Place the mixture in a blender or food processor. Add tomatoes and chiles, and purée the mixture. Heat the remaining ½ cup lard in a saucepan. Brown the onion slices. Stir in the puréed mixture and cook until it releases its fat and you can see the bottom of the pan when the mixture is stirred. Add 2 to 3 cups of reserved chicken broth, or as much as is necessary to slightly thin the sauce. Add the chicken and cook for an additional 25 minutes. Correct the seasoning.

To serve: Serve the almond mole from a large clay pot, garnished with canned chiles, chopped almonds or peanuts, and chopped parsley. Accompany with freshly made corn tortillas.

SERVES 8

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