Bay Nut Chicken Mole


 Photo and recipe by Kristen Rasmussen

Read Kristen’s  story  to learn more about foraging and processing bay nuts. 

Traditionally, moles get their robust coffee-cacao flavor from chocolate, but roasted bay nuts are a great alternative for a similar rich-but-wild flavor.

Serves 6

2½ pounds skinless chicken thighs and/or legs
1–2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other neutral flavored) oil, divided
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
Juice and zest from 2 blood oranges
2 cinnamon sticks
1 yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup almonds, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, diced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1½ ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into strips
½ ounce dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into strips
3 prunes, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 ounces roasted bay nuts, chopped (Mexican chocolate can be substituted for bay nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Chopped fresh cilantro, queso fresco, avocado, and corn tortillas (to serve)

Rub chicken all over with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Brown chicken (about 3 minutes per side).

Add broth, blood orange juice, and cinnamon sticks then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize, about 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add almonds, cumin, coriander, and chiles. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook while stirring until chiles soften, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer chicken from pot to a large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion-chile mixture. (No need to wash the pot, since you’ll use it again shortly.) Add blood orange zest, prunes, oregano, bay nuts, and brown sugar to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks.

Transfer sauce mixture to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt. Coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat and re-heat chicken.

Serve over homemade corn tortillas topped with cilantro springs, avocado, and queso fresco (as desired). The dish pairs well with vinegary red cabbage slaw (the vinegar is a great contrast to the dark, rich mole) and roasted delicata or butternut squash.