Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Discovery of Chocolate: Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole

The February/March book for the Cook the Books Club was The Discovery of  Chocolate, by James Runcie.  This round is being hosted by Simone at Briciole, and the whole collection can be seen here - I'm very interested in seeing how others handled the food challenge - it is full of lush food descriptions from the Americas and Europe.

Without doubt its biggest strength is the history and descriptions of innovations in chocolate.  The story itself concerns a Conquistador named Diego who meets and falls in love with a woman who makes a marvelous chocolate drink that changes his life before the two are separated by the chaotic events of Spanish colonialization in the area.  Diego has reason to believe she's dead and travels throughout South America and then Europe, realizing as time passes that the final cacao drink she gave him apparently has made him immortal.

I love magical realism, and found the premise very interesting, while being a good bit less enamoured of Diego, who - in spite of spending centuries brooding and feeling the loss of her love while apparently being a Forrest Gump-like catalyst for every chocolate innovation from bon bons to Sachertorte to bar chocolate to Hersey's Kisses - is, himself, a profoundly uninteresting man.

Whether on purpose or not, he acts as an observer of his life rather than a participant in it and by the end of the book, the 'big reveal' left me thinking that he spent 500 years learning absolutely nothing and the whole thing was apparently a build up to a version of the Good Witch of the North declaring he could have gone home anytime he wanted.

Peppered throughout the story are brushes with famous people who Diego influences in ways that affect the development of chocolate, or simply are bit parts in his story.  These were fun to hunt for, although by the time I got to the tale of how Kisses came to be, I actually said out loud, "Oh come ON" and had to put it away for a couple days.

(Side note that is relevant if you read this book: Do not feed chocolate to dogs, Diego!  It's very bad for them!)

 All that aside, I enjoyed reading it, once I decided that it is the Discover of CHOCOLATE, not Diego's Adventures Through Time.  It made for a fun puzzle to figure out how he might have been a part of various chocolate obsessions over the centuries, and it definitely appealed to me as foodie fiction.

It helped a lot to know that James Runcie originally intended to write this as a series of short stories, and I am sorry he chose not to handle it that way, as a more episodic approach would have solved the weaknesses it had as a novel. In a short story series, you have lower expectations for actual character development and growth, and can focus more on shorter term events.

There was no shortage at all of potential dishes to work with.  I settled on a savory dish rather than sweet, as I wanted to do something more rooted in chocolate's origins than in Europe's use of it.

I've wanted to make Chicken Mole for a long time - it's one of those things I can rarely resist ordering when it's on the menu, but most recipes have an intimidatingly long list of ingredients.  Then I came across this recipe from Foraged Dish, and knew I had my starting point!

The result was very flavorful, not overly spicy (Mole is more about the play of flavors than about pure heat), and quite fast to put together with the help of a food processor and slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Chicken Mole (Paleo/Whole30)
serves 4

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1/3 cup cocoa
2 Tblsp. ancho chile  powder
1 tsp. ground coriandor
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. anise seed powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup raisins
1 28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (about 1/2 a small can)

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, and saute the onions for a few minutes.  Add the chicken, turning a couple times, to sear the outside (you don't need to cook it entirely).

Put the chicken and onions into a slow-cooker and set aside.

Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor, and puree for a couple minutes until smooth.

Dump the mole sauce on top of the chicken, coating everything.  It will seem like a lot of sauce.  It's not - there's no such thing as too much mole!

Let cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  The chicken will be very tender, and the sauce will have cooked down some.

Serve with rice (or cauliflower rice as we did), along with a salad, guacamole or avocado slices, and a tortilla, if desired, to sop up all the mole goodness.

Check out the other food inspiration from The Discovery of Chocolate!

Because of the magical realism that infuses this book, I am also sharing this with this month's Fandom Foodie Challenge hosted by The Hungry Bookworm#MagicalRealFood!


  1. I am a mole virgin... need to look into it Cheers from Carole's chatter

  2. I've made the longer versions, and like this simplified one. The others get a bit overdone with too many competing flavors. Good review.

  3. I've never had mole before. Not sure if the family would like it, but I am curious to try it.

  4. The stars must be in alignment! Everyone is talking about mole. This looks pretty easy to make, especially with the slow cooker.

  5. Yes, I've been thinking of making a mole this week too. YOur recipe looks delicious

  6. Mole seems to be the topic of the weekend.

  7. this looks like something we need to try thanks for sharing
    come see us at

  8. I have never done a mole. I am so interested to try this. Thank you for sharing something outside of the box.

  9. My husband would love for me to give this a try. Thanks for sharing on To Grandma's House We Go!

  10. I love that this is made in a slow cooker. Makes life much easier. I like your analogy of the good witch also.

  11. I have never made mole in my own kitchen, although I have tried it in restaurants. You did an amazing job of this recipe - it looks wonderful! Thank you for sharing, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

  12. I don't know why, but I've never been able to wrap my mind around mole. :) Maybe it's because I'm not a huge chocolate lover. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  13. Loved you review Lynda and the Chicken Mole sounds so scrumptious. We'll give it a try, I'm keen to find out how the chocolate dances with the other flavors

  14. I agree with you that a series of short stories would have been better. I don't have a slow cooker, but your recipe made me really want to try the result of cooking meat in such flavorful sauce for a long time. Thank you for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books :)

  15. Ha! You nailed it with the Forrest Gump analogy! That got a bit annoying, especially the Hershey Kiss scenario. I want to make a mole and this slow cooker method may be my avenue for tackling it! Thanks.

  16. Looks so yummy! And I love that this is made in the slow cooker!! Thanks for sharing at Friday Frenzy Link Party!!

  17. Sorry to say I am not too much a fan of the Discovery of Chocolate book, but this take on mole made with a slow cooker has me intrigued. Fewer ingredients, yea! Am printing this out for my husband to inspect. He's all things Mexican most of the time in our house

  18. Hope you had a wonderful weekend and thanks so much for sharing your special post with us at Full Plate Thursday! Have a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  19. I have taken two mole-making classes and have attempted it only rarely at home. But your version might be the one that makes it on a regular rotation. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Your mole look amazing! And I'm with you - the book was pretty unimpressive

  21. This sounds AMAZING! Definitely bookmarking for later!

    Thanks for participating in the linkup this month - I shared this recipe on Twitter today as one of my favorites! :)

    - Megan @ The Hungry Bookworm