I recently took some visiting friends to a great new Mexican restaurant called Pelea Mexicana, located on the edge of Tribeca and Soho on Lispenard St. and 6th Ave. The space is impressive with tall ceilings, brass and wood furnishings, lively music, homemade tortillas, hot sauces, and authentic Mexican dishes made with fresh ingredients. In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I sampled their classic Oaxacan-style Enchiladas de Mole Negro, served bubbling hot with a melty layer of Chihuahua cheese, velvety mole sauce and shredded chicken with onions inside corn tortillas, baked to perfection.
Mole is a common dish in Mexican cuisine, (pronounced Moh-lay) which is prepared with a rich, reddish brown chili-chocolate sauce using dark chocolate and guajillo peppers (you can find these at your local fresh market or online at Marx foods or Penzeys Spices). Slightly spicy with a touch of smokiness, Mole Enchiladas are usually prepared with chicken but can also be made with pork or shredded beef, (or go vegetarian with corn, beans and rice filling). To save time, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time, and use pre-made shredded chicken, beef or whatever filling you decide on. Bake them in a clay or ceramic pot and serve directly from the oven in the dish, garnished with cilantro or green onions, along with a side of chips and a variety of salsas and a tangy lime margarita. Ole!
Chicken Enchiladas de Mole Negro
For the enchiladas:
6-10 flour or corn tortillas, small size
1.5 c shredded chicken
1/4 c light sour cream
1/4 c green onions, chopped
2 c grated white cheese, halved in 2 equal parts (queso fresco or chihuahua)
Salt and Pepper
For the Mole Sauce:
2 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
4 dried guajillo peppers, seeds & stems removed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c warm water
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, with juices
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c premium dark chocolate, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Garnish: Cilantro and/or green onions, chopped
Directions for Mole Sauce:
Saute bacon in a saucepan over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon, discard or save for another purpose. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree chilies, garlic and water in a food processor. Strain through fine mesh strainer.
Add tomatoes, broth and strained chili puree to vegetable mixture. Simmer on high heat for 20-30 minutes until well incorporated and sauce has reduced and thickened. Strain, pressing on solids. Stir in chocolate until melted. Salt and pepper to taste, keep sauce warm.
Directions for Enchiladas:
Mix chicken, sour cream, green onions and half of the cheese in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.
Lay out tortillas, fill with chicken mixture.
Roll tightly and lay in a ceramic or clay baking dish that has a thin layer of mole sauce already spread on the bottom (to prevent sticking and burning).
Cover with remaining sauce and top with remaining Chihuahua cheese.
Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand a few minutes before serving.