Chicken with Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole Sauce

Photo Credit: Williams-Sonoma, 2015

During October, the seasonal menu is filled with pumpkins and this classic Mexican sauce has a unique spin when combining pumpkin and almonds with cocoa, chiles, allspice berries, cloves and cinnamon. The mole sauce can be made ahead of time, and for a super-quick supper, simply combine the sauce with browned chicken thighs and then simmer. Dress up the dish with chunks of fresh pumpkin and crunchy pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds) to create a beautiful yet easy one-pot dish that will turn heads at an autumn dinner party.

Chicken with Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole Sauce
(Pollo con Mole de Chile Ancho y Calabaza)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
For the Pumpkin Mole:
1/2 white onion, peeled, charred
6 garlic cloves, charred, peeled
3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and opened
1/4 cup slivered almonds
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 whole allspice berries
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 3/4 cup)
3 cups chicken broth
Kosher, to taste
3 Tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder

Directions:
Place the onion and garlic in a baking sheet under the broiler. Char for 9 to 10 minutes, flipping once in between. Once they are soft and charred, remove from the heat. When the garlic is cool, peel.

In an already hot skillet or comal set over medium-low heat, toast the ancho chiles for about 15 to 20 seconds per side, until they brown and crisp without burning. Place toasted ancho chiles in a bowl covered with boiling water. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes until they are plumped up and rehydrated.

In the same skillet, toast the cloves and all spice until aromatic, about a minute. Remove from the heat. Toast the almonds and cinnamon, stirring often, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Place the onion, garlic, chiles, 1/2 cup of chile soaking liquid, almonds, cloves, cinnamon and allspice in the blender and puree until smooth.

In a soup pot or casserole, heat the oil and pour the pureed mixture over medium heat. Add the salt, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to help prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The color will darken considerably.

Add the pumpkin puree and chicken broth to the sauce. Stir well until the pumpkin puree has dissolved, it will have a silky consistency. Continue to cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using immediately set aside.

For the Chicken:
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
15 ounces pumpkin ancho chile mole sauce
1 lemon, quartered
2 cinnamon sticks for garnish
2 Tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Directions:
In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the pumpkin and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is slightly tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pumpkin pieces to a plate and set aside.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In the same pan, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and pour off the excess fat in the pan.

Return the chicken, skin side up, to the pan and add the simmer sauce. Return the pumpkin to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes.

Garnish with lemon quarters and cinnamon sticks. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro and serve immediately.

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