There are so many different Mexican mole sauces that the safest bet is not to guess a number at all. However, you can bet that a mole-based dish is present in most Mexican homes during the Day of the Dead celebration: a time where people build a bridge to connect with those who have departed. It is a joyous, yet bittersweet, occasion when families reminisce on what their dear ones loved the most. Especially their favorite foods. Traditional mole dishes are always on top of anyone's list.
One of my favorites is the amarillito, or “little yellow.” It is a classic and so easy compared with how laborious some of Mexico’s other moles can be—it can be made, as we Mexicans say, “with one hand on your hip.” It is light and bright, but despite the fact that it’s not actually yellow, the name has stuck.
The dish comes from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known in the culinary world for its many versions of mole. The chochoyotes, or dimpled corn masa dumplings, enrich and thicken the sauce, and the dimple in the center of each one holds the sauce like a tasty, fluffy edible spoon. For celebrating Day of the Dead, or for any occasion when there is anything to celebrate, this dish speaks of a happy gathering. —Pati Jinich
chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or canned
medium fresh hoja santa leaves or 5 dried, or 2 cilantro sprigs (optional)
chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, or a combination
Kosher or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Masa Dumplings (recipe follows)
instant corn masa flour, such as Maseca
1 1/2 tablespoons
lard or vegetable shortening
kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
In This Recipe
Yellow Mole with Chicken
TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Heat a comal or large skillet over medium heat until hot. Lay the chiles flat in the pan and toast them for 10 to 15 seconds per side until they become fragrant and pliable and their color darkens. Take care not to let them burn, or they will turn bitter. Remove from the heat.
In a medium saucepan, combine the toasted chiles with the tomatillos, tomato, and garlic. Add water to cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos and tomato are soft. Remove from the heat.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles, tomatillos, tomato, and garlic to a blender or food processor and let cool slightly. Add the cloves, cinnamon, oregano, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute? for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the tomatillo puree and cook until it thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Add the chicken broth and hoja santa leaves, if using. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, make the masa for the dumplings.
In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper to taste. Working in batches, add the chicken to the pan skin side down and brown on each side for 4 to 5 minutes.
Return all the chicken to the pan, pour the mole sauce on top, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Make the dumplings as directed below. One by one, add them to the mole and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through and the mole has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Serve.
In a large bowl, mix the masa flour with the water, then knead for about 1 minute, until the dough is smooth and free of lumps. Add the lard, cinnamon, salt, and sugar and mix for another minute, until well incorporated and smooth.
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then, with your little finger, make a dimple in the middle of each dumpling.
I forgo my job in the Washington DC policy research world to research, test, taste, cook, write, teach and talk about Mexican food. Not only because of nostalgia and desire to connect to my roots, but because I love sharing all I learn and I am fascinated by Mexico cuisine's richness and depth.