When enchiladas first came into being centuries ago in Mexico, they were simple street food, corn tortillas dipped in a chile sauce and eaten right away. They are of Aztec origin, first described to Europeans by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a conquistador who came to Tenochtitlan in 1519. At the time they were called chīllapīzzali, or “chile-flute”; the current word comes from the Spanish verb enchilar, “to season with chiles”. It’s just a short jump from there to enmoladas—enchiladas covered in mole sauce. And hoo boy, are they ever delicious.
Mole has also been around for quite a long time; it comes from the Nahuatl word mōlli, which means “milled” or “pounded”, and it’s the common name for a series of rich sauces that are often chile-based. Moles can be incredibly complicated to make, taking several days of careful cooking and containing upward to 30 ingredients in a single sauce. The origin story of mole is equally complicated. The culinary tradition of blending chiles and savory items like chocolate and tomatoes has indigenous Mexican roots, while the creation of sauces pureed from nuts and seeds and fruit came to Mexico with the Spanish. They, in turn, had learned this style of cooking in the midst of the Moorish occupation of Spain, and had adopted Middle Eastern spices as part of their own kitchen. In short, mole is part Mexican and part European, with roots that reach back to Iran and North Africa.
Our Mexican Mole Powder simplifies all this. All we ask is that you bloom the seasoning blend in some oil for a minute and then mix it with stock and honey. Cook this until it reduces and you’ll have a thick, highly seasoned sauce that’s chocolatey and tart, spicy with chiles and flavored with sweet, aromatic spices. Once your sauce is made, you can start filling your enmoladas with roasted chicken and mild cheese, and you may find it’s surprisingly easy to put together.
We filled our enmoladas with chicken that we coated with Birria Taco Seasoning and roasted. We wanted our chicken to be hearty and savory, able to simultaneously assert itself against the mole while complementing that same sauce. Birria’s herbaceous accents of oregano and celery seed give it just enough oomph to give the chicken definition in this dish, while the chiles and seasonings in the Birria help it incorporate seamlessly. Shred the chicken and discard the bones, and this can even be done a day or two in advance. Make a line down the center of the tortilla with chicken and then tuck in some cheese; we used queso blanco for its mild crumble and Monterey Jack for its terrific ability to melt. For a fresh, green bite add cilantro and a squirt of some lime juice, and then roll the enmolada and put it in the baking dish. Remember not to overstuff your enmolada. While it’s tempting to fill tortillas with a ton of yummy fillings, overstuffing tortillas prevents them from closing properly and may even tear them. Overstuffed tortillas that aren’t torn are more susceptible to breaking open when you take them from the pan, so just fill across the center of the tortilla, not quite to the edges, and fold the ends one over the other. Place enmoladas seam-side down in a baking pan that’s already got a thin layer of mole sauce in it. With the seam down, they’ll hold together better as they cook.
Pour about half of the mole sauce over the top of the enchiladas, reserving the rest for plating and garnishing. Since everything is cooked you’re just heating it all together and melting the cheese, so 10 minutes in a hot oven should be all you need. Remove the enmoladas when the cheese looks like it’s melted and the mole sauce looks like it’s become one with the tortillas. Put an enmolada (or two!) on a plate and pour on a bit more mole sauce. Then top the enmoladas with things like jalapenos, Mexican crema, crisp radishes, and some raw onion, and sit down to a homemade Mexican meal that has deep, historical roots.
- 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, baked and shredded
- 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Birria Taco Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Twelve (12), 6-inch corn tortillas
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 3 Tablespoons Mexican Mole Powder, plus more depending on desired sauce thickness
- 12 oz chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese
- 6 oz queso blanco
- Juice of one lime
- Mexican crema or sour cream to taste (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Season chicken thighs with Birria Taco Seasoning and Kosher Salt and bake for 35 minutes, or the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh meat reaches 165°F. Drop oven temperature to 350°F.
2. Allow chicken to cool enough to handle, then shred the meat and discard the bones. Set the meat aside.
2. Fry tortillas in 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil, in batches, and put to the side.
3. Heat 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Briefly fry the Mexican Mole Powder, then gradually whisk in chicken stock and honey, and cook until a thick-ish sauce is formed. Add more seasoning if desired, to further thicken and intensify the sauce.
4. Pour a thin layer of Mole Sauce in a baking dish.
5. Assemble enchiladas. Put shredded chicken, cilantro, queso blanco, monterey jack, and a splash of lime juice in the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortilla, tucking one end under the other, and place on the sauce in the baking dish, seam-side down.
6. Cover with more mole sauce, and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.
7. Serve with Mexican Crema on the side. Garnish with more mole sauce, sliced radishes, jalapenos, cilantro, raw onion.