Most moles are dense, rich concoctions which leave you swooning after one bite. Mole verde is not quite like that. It’s savory and complex, but it’s light where other moles are dark, spicy and bright where they are heavy, a pastiche of green where they are deep, uniform red-browns.
The trick to making a good mole verde is the pumpkin seeds (above). They add texture and consistency to all the poppy, tangy green flavors. I used a little over a cup in this recipe. Moles are famous for their complicated layers of nuts and spices, but mole verde is actually pretty straightforward, spice-wise. Chicken stock, made with cilantro, garlic, onion, and a chopped up carrot, is the base of the sauce, and epazote, more cilantro, and a dash of salt are added later. So the pumpkin seeds are a welcoming addition, transforming mole verde from a simple green sauce into a more complex dish.
The best quality of mole verde, in my opinion, is its subtle spiciness. I say subtle because the sauce absorbs the piercing blast of the chiles and spreads it out, creating a soft, piquant warmness. Tomatillos form the base for the layered flavors of serranos, jalapeños, and poblanos, and the pumpkin seeds, cilantro and epazote underscore the vividness of the tomatoes and peppers. Mole verde has plenty of layers, but at the same time feels like a friendly dish you could serve on a chilly Sunday night, snuggling up to a movie or the weekend paper, vivifying yourself for the week ahead.
For the chicken stock:
3/4 whole chicken
1 carrot, chopped
1 white onion
1-2 sprigs fresh cilantro
5 cloves garlic, peeled
dash of salt
For the mole:
10-12 tomatilloes, peeled
1 large white onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves
4 serrano chiles
3 jalapeño chiles
2 poblano chiles, roasted
1-2 sprigs fresh cilantro
1-2 sprigs fresh epazote
1 cup pumpkin seeds, peeled and gently toasted
First, cover all of the stock ingredients with water and boil. Leave boiling for 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, roast the poblano chiles (you can peel them if you like; I prefer using the skins) and gently toast the pumpkin seeds. Once the chicken is cooked through, boil the tomatillos, white onion, garlic, serrano and jalapeño chiles in 2 cups of stock. Once the tomatillos are cooked through and have turned a light green, transfer the mixture to a blender.
Blend thoroughly, then add the cilantro, epazote, and pumpkin seeds. Blend again.
Transfer the sauce to a large, deep skillet and heat. Once the mixture is bubbling, add two more cups of the chicken stock. Turn to medium-low heat and cook for another 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the sauce from sticking. Pour sauce over the chicken pieces and serve with rice, tortillas, or bread.
Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Sarah Menkedick