Restaurateur Mariano Martinez, owner of Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine in Dallas and Arlington, learned Mexican food traditions from his grandmother, Gabina Cueller Gamez, one of the founders of the El Chico chain of restaurants. Mariano’s favorite family Christmas dish is Chicken en Mole Poblano, a variation of the national dish of Mexico. Chocolate provides the special ingredient of the spicy sauce. Mole recipes abound, but Mariano’s wife, Wanda, likes to flavor her sauce with chili powder, dried red pepper, and sesame seeds. The Martinezes serve the dish with rice, homemade pork tamales, picadillo, flour tortillas, and a salad of tossed greens and tomatoes. Fruitcake and buñuelos complete the feast.

Serves 8

  • 8 to 12 chicken pieces (can be made with turkey) 
  • vegetable oil 
  • 2 c. pear-shaped tomatoes 
  • 3/4 c. green pepper, chopped 
  • 2 cloves minced garlic 
  • 2 tsp. salt 
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. light Karo syrup 
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa 
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar 
  • 1/4 c. chopped almonds 
  • 1/4 c. raisins 
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper pinch of ground cloves 
  • 1 bay leaf 
Heat a shallow layer of oil in a very large skillet, or use two skillets. Brown chicken in oil on both sides, then add water to cover and simmer 30 minutes. While chicken is cooking, make the sauce by placing all remaining ingredients (except bay leaf) in a blender and processing until smooth. When chicken is done, drain broth and add 1- 1 1/2 c. of broth to sauce. Blend, pour over chicken in skillet, add bay leaf, and cook on low heat for 35 more minutes. Serve with rice. 

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