After watching the Feesh rotation getting hammered or the boolpen collapse repeatedly over the past couple of weeks, leaving the Rainbow Warriors at 13-20, suspended above last place like Jonathan Edwards’ spider above the pit of Mictlan by only the slender thread of the Barves, I’ve repaired to my kitchen to prepare a family feast for Mother’s Day. I can’t control the plummet of the local franchise at the Joycean 32 feet per sec per sec. That will have to wait on Boosh and BeepBeep who can’t be too far away by now. I can, however, control my culinary destiny.
I bet not many of you know that the ancient Mexicans created spicy hot tomato sauce as a dressing for human meat. Bernal Diaz de Castillo, author of La Conquista de Nueva España, reported that these tomato-based stews were “cunningly prepared with hot peppers and vegetables” to please the palates of warriors or nobles who needed only to take one of their slaves up to the temple to have them sacrificed and, after giving up “a leg for Montezuma,” got to take the rest of the succulent cuts home with which to prepare a fine meal for the cattle-less, protein-challenged half-million-strong city in the lake they inhabited. Why bother paying baseball franchise prices for bison from a thousand miles to the north? Anyway, if you want to read up on cannibal recipes for a funky Mesoamerican first communion, you’ll find ’em here:
Are you hungry yet? I thought so. Well, aside from the staple tomato and pepper sauces, somewhere along the line Mexico gave us (in addition to murderers, robbers and rapists, or so I have been led to believe) molé, a sauce made from money. Yes, money – which in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital (until Cortes got finished making it look like Chicago on a Reslugnican urban renewal budget) was an exchange of cocoa beans, the alternate wealth to slaves. Today you can enjoy this spicy chocolate stew with chicken or pork in any fine Mexican restaurant or perhaps garnish it with listeria at Chipotle Grill for a little extra frisson.
Or you can try a variation created by your very own Old Gator of the Beloved Wooden Spoon: mocha molé, by adding Kahlua and coffee reduction to a time tested recipe for this classic dish. Ready?
2 cups chicken stock
2 dried guajillo chilies,
2 dried ancho chilies
3 dried chipotle chilies (all chilies stemmed and seeded)
1 Hawaiian dinner roll, torn up
2 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips (corn instead of flour tortillas is imperative)
2 halved tomatoes
5 tomatillos, halved
1 tablespoon bacon fat
A dozen cloves of peeled and sliced
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pomegranate arils (or 1 tbsp pomegranate juice)
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tbsp ground cinnamon cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground allspice
6 ounces unsweetened or bittersweet Baker’s chocolate, chopped or grated
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup coffee reduction (don’t use a flavored coffee)
½ cup Kahlua (or to taste)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-5 chicken breast fillets, butterflied OR pork loin sliced into medallions
Toast the chiles in a dry pan over medium heat until warm and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a blender with the chicken stock.
Toast dinner roll pieces and tortilla strips in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. Transfer to the blender with chicken broth and chilies
Allow the chiles, bread tortillas to soak in the chicken stock for about five minutes. Blend the mixture until smooth.
Cook tomatoes and tomatillos in a dry skillet on medium-high heat until soft and blackened, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Dump into the blender with the chilie puree.
Melt bacon fat in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in onion, garlic, peanuts, cranberries, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Cook and stir until onions are soft and golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove add all of this to the blender with the chilie-tomato mixture and blend until smooth.
Pour chilie mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in chocolate, chicken broth, peanut butter (you can skip this if you have a guest who goes into toxic shock from peanuts), pomegranate arils, Kahlua, coffee reduction, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; stir until chocolate is melted and sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the chicken breast fillets and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, but do not overcook. Add a few tablespoons of chicken broth from time to time if mixture thickens too much (which means you’ve been using too high a flame).
Serve over rice with refried beans and a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions and finely diced garlic.
You can now throw away the rest of your bucket list.