I prepare chicken legs and thighs by the confit method, starting with a 12-hour dry brine and then cooking the poultry for 7 hours in rendered chicken fat in the water bath. You have to plan ahead for this dish, but it is the best chicken leg–thigh preparation I’ve ever eaten, and it is doubly delectable when it’s paired with a dark, rich mole sauce.
I lived in the Southwest for more than thirty years, so I have a great affinity for any dish that comes out of the Mexican kitchen and for all things chile. The unique flavors from the huge variety of dried and fresh chiles that informs Mexican cooking provides a wide spectrum of heat and taste that I love.
In Mexico, mole is the equivalent of the national dish and reportedly it’s been tried by some 99% of the population. Outside of Mexico, however, mole is still a somewhat rare treat, probably because of its laborious preparation.
This particular recipe, a mole poblano, has fewer ingredients than some of the traditional versions and requires less prep time, but it still delivers delicious flavor and texture. I prefer a very smooth mole, so I run the final puréed sauce through a food mill, strainer, or chinois, discarding any solids. I like to make a large batch because it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days, and any leftover sauce freezes beautifully for future use.
- Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow glass or ceramic dish large enough to accommodate all four pieces. Set aside.
- Place the black and white peppercorns and the coriander seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. In a small bowl, combine the ground spices with the bay and sage leaves, garlic, and salt. Rub the mixture on all sides of the chicken, coating the top with any remaining rub. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the water bath to 180ºF (82°C).
- Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and rinse under cold running water to remove all of the dry brine. This may take a couple of minutes. When it is thoroughly rinsed, pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place two chicken portions in each of two large food bags. Add 7 ounces of rendered chicken fat to each of the bags and vacuum seal. Cook the chicken for 7 hours.
- Very carefully (the rendered chicken fat will be hot!) cut open the tops of the bags and pour the fat into a clean container, reserving it for future use by either refrigerating it or freezing it after it has cooled. Then carefully remove the chicken from the food bags and place it in a single layer in an ovenproof/broiler-proof sauté pan or baking dish.
- Preheat the broiler to medium-high. Place the chicken in its baking vessel under the broiler and, watching it carefully, broil the chicken until the skin is nicely browned, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove it from the broiler and cover with enough mole sauce to completely coat the chicken or to your liking. Place it back under the broiler for another 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to warmed plates, sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds or pepitas, and serve immediately.
Makes approximately 1½ quarts
- Remove the stems from the dried chiles and discard. Slice the chiles in half lengthwise and remove and discard the seeds. Place the chiles in a nonreactive pot with sufficient hot water to cover, pushing the chiles down with a large spoon until completely submerged. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Place the raisins and the chocolate in a blender. Heat the 1½ cups water or stock to a simmer and carefully pour it over the raisin–chocolate mixture; let stand for a few minutes to soften the chocolate.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes, stirring frequently and being careful not to brown the garlic.
- Drain the chiles and add them to the blender along with the sautéed onion and garlic, almonds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, the spices, salt, and pepper. Purée until smooth. Depending on the size and strength of your blender, you may want to divide the ingredients in half and purée in two batches. If you prefer a very smooth mole, press the purée through a food mill. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.