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Friday, October 29, 2010

Mole, Butternuts, and Beeeeer

What is a "butternut"??? Why do they call butternut squash, "butternut squash"??? And, why is it so tasty??? Why can we only get it in the fall? Why don't other countries grow it year round so we can enjoy it in the spring??? Is it too much to ask??? Why am I using so many question marks??? I'm outta control!!! I feel like Regis Philbin!

So, when I get stuck in a food rut around the house, my "go to" dish is Chicken en Mole. Yum... And, to be honest- I CHEAT! I buy mole paste! I don't make it from scratch. It's one of those things that takes skill, and 30 some ingredients, and a day or two of babysitting! Maybe some day I'll make it from scratch, but for now, I'll take the shortcut! And, I usually make enough that I can put leftovers in to burritos or enchiladas. Either way, the sauce always tastes better the next day.

Mole paste is available in every grocery store I've been to lately. It's in the Mexican aisle, and there's generally two brands. It's kind of similar to Better Than Bouillon beef base- it's grainy, pasty, and needs refrigeration after opened! But, it's soooo simple to use.

Now, I usually like carrot chunks in my mole, but I had butternut squash on hand. Figured it would be great in the mole- a nice earthy component to the recipe. And, if it's not overcooked, but rather kinda firm, PERFECTION!!!

Chicken and Butternut Squash en Mole

1            large onion, sliced
1 stalk    celery, chopped
1            red pepper, sliced thick
1 lb        chicken breast tenders
1-1/2 C  roasted butternut squash (not roasted to completion; should be firm; save the rest for soup!)
3/4 C     mole paste (Doria Maria brand is what I've been using)
2 T        chopped garlic
2 T        canola oil
1 C        beer (Sam Adams Octoberfest worked great! something hearty)
1/2 C     chicken stock
1/2 C     water
              roasted seeds from squash or pumpkin (sprinkle over top!)

  1. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out. Wash the seeds, and place them aside. Place the squash on a oiled cookie sheet, cook for 25 minutes at 375 deg F. The squash won't be completely cooked yet. LEAVE IT IN THE OVEN while we get started on the other items...
  2. Heat up a Dutch oven on the stove, on medium high heat. Add 1 T oil. Once hot and shimmery, place the chicken in to the pan, whole. No need to chop it up- it will stay juicy this way. Brown on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Remove from pan to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add 1 T oil, and turn heat down to medium. Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Stir around the pan for about a minute, then let cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent, and the celery bright green.
  4. Add the mole paste, and stir around the pan to dissolve it. NOTE: it has salt in it already, so don't add salt until the end!
  5. Add the beer, chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil, stirring and dissolving the mole paste. Reduce to a slow simmer, and allow to thicken.
  6. Place squash seeds in oven, at 325 Deg F. Set timer for 5 minutes.
  7. Take one half of the butternut squash, and peel with a vegetable peeler. Chop in to 1" to 1-1/2" chunks. Add to the pot.
  8. When timer goes off, stir the seeds. Put back in the oven, and roast for another 4-5 minutes, until crunchy. Remove from oven.
  9. Add chicken to pot on stove, and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.
  10. Serve alongside cooked rice. Top with squash seeds, and some sour cream.
  11. Pour beer, pick up fork, and gorge yourself on this stuff! It's tasty!
That's all folks! Mange Bene!!!!

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