Sometimes magic is all hats and rabbits.

It’s clicking your ruby heels three times. And realizing that, no, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

It’s waking up to snow on Christmas morning. And believing in Santa Claus.


But sometimes. In some cultures. Realities. Universes. (Novels.)

It’s not quite so benign.

Sometimes magic is loving someone for a lifetime. And having it never be quite enough.

Sometimes the timing is just. Off.

Sometimes it’s realizing that requited love. Isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s not perfect. And it doesn’t solve everything.

And unrequited? Well. Let’s not go there.

Sometimes. It’s playing with fire. Feeling something with so much verve that it permeates everything and everyone around you. For better or worse. To the point that, in addition to your blood, sweat and tears, you find yourself inadvertently adding in bits of sadness, anger, rage, and joy into that wedding dinner you’ve just cooked for your sister.

Who is marrying the man you’ve loved all your life. Such that everyone who eats it is plunged. Headfirst. Into into the depths of every emotion you’ve ever felt on the subject. (Largely depression. Rage. Fury.) Realized or not. (Talk about emotional eating.)

Yup. That’s magic for you.
Or. More accurately. Magical realism.

The kind of magic that is prevalent in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate. A book whose plot and characters I found vaguely irritating. But whose ultimate message I loved.

That food holds more power over us than we would ever think or could ever know. It is linked to emotion. To memory. To love. It can make or break our day.

The right meal. At the right time. With the right combination of ingredients. Is worth a thousand words. Or more.

It is the universal language. Or so I like to think.
And so while I would love a little magic in my life. (All I’ve got right now is the magic of the fact that I only have one test this week instead of two.) There’s always the danger that it won’t be the magic of fairy tales and happy endings. But that of a little village in Mexico where nightmares as well as dreams can come true.

Instead. I’ll just take the food. Which elicits a safer kind of magic. In its own right.
Spicy Grilled Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from Bon Appetit

1 dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 slice bread (I used whole wheat bread)
3/8 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp dark brown sugar
honey (to taste – I added this in. The mole didn’t have quite the flavor that I wanted or imagined that it should have. I added probably a tbsp.)
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lb)

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chile pieces; toast until aromatic and lighter in color around edges, pressing with potato masher or back of fork and turning pieces, about 2 minutes. Set aside one 2-inch piece of chile for garnish; transfer remaining pieces to medium bowl. Cover chiles in bowl with hot water; soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

In same large pot, heat 1 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and garlic. SautΓ© until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to processor, leaving oil in pot. Add bread slice (cut off crust) to pot; cook until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer bread to processor (reserve pot). Add tomatoes to processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to small bowl (do not clean processor).

Drain ancho chiles and place in processor. Add 1/4 cup broth and 1 chipotle chile. Puree until smooth.

Add ancho chile puree to pot; cook until puree thickens and darkens, stirring often, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add tomato puree. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Whisk in pumpkin and 1 1/2 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until mole thickens and reduces, about 15 minutes. Whisk in milk and sugar (and honey). Season to taste with salt.

Puree 1 tablespoons oil and 1 chipotle chile in small processor or force through sieve to make thick glaze. Transfer to bowl. (Mole and glaze can be made 3 days ahead. Cover separately and chill.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or George Foreman grill. Rewarm mole. Spread chipotle glaze thinly over both sides of chicken breasts. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt. Grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon mole over each. Crumble reserved ancho chile piece; sprinkle over chicken. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and lime.

I served this with asparagus one day. And sweet potatoes the next. Just simple and roasted.

This is my submission to this edition of Cook the Books!
Also. One thing I did really like about Like Water For Chocolate was the home remedies that it had littered throughout the text. Perhaps my favorite was that for a home cure for burns (since I am constantly burning myself. Will I ever learn that trying to pick up a baking pan out of the oven with my bare hands is not a good idea? Probably not.) Potato peel. It apparently keeps the skin moist without sticking and thus is better than a bandage or even traditional dressing. This is my submission to the Home Remedies Event which is being hosted over at Ruchika Cooks!

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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66 Responses to Spicy Grilled Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce – Cook the Books

  1. Kim says:

    I made chicken with mole sauce too! I like that yours has pumpkin in it though. I imagine that it really helps to add flavor and color to the sauce.

    Running over to check out the Home Remedies event

  2. Rachel says:

    Awesome post for Cook the Books. Your prose is so wonderful to read. My home remedy for burns is my ever-handy aloe plant.

  3. J – This recipe looks fabulous, love the spicy sweet flavors of this dish. I can’t believe you have time to cook and blog about this stuff with studies.

  4. Lea Ann says:

    Great post. This chicken looks amazing. I don’t know how you have time to cook, study and write these wonderful pieces.

  5. Pam says:

    You write as well as you cook! Food does have so many memories with it many times. Your chicken and mole sauce looks so delicious! Good luck with your test!!!

  6. Astra Libris says:

    Joanne, I loved reading your retelling of Esquivel’s text – your words were so powerful, so compelling, I was poised at the edge of my chair throughout this post, eagerly awaiting the next word…

    I couldn’t agree more, food is a universal language indeed! Your chicken with pumpkin mole is universal bliss! πŸ™‚

  7. Love the story and noted the event. The pumpkin mole sauce is totally new to me. Gotta try this.

  8. Pumpkin mole sauce is quiet a new & an interesting one, sounds great and dish looks like a complete meal

  9. Marisa says:

    Beautiful presentation! Pumpkin mole? Count me in. And I too saw that movie and loved it.

  10. What a captivating chicken breast recipe, Joanne! I read the book so long ago I had forgotten what a wonderful story it was!

  11. I have never had mole with pumpkin! I was just talking about mole with my mexican friend connie and she sais that her sister in Mexico sends her jars of mole; they are so time-consuming to prepare; yours sounds more user-friendly than the classic one with cocoa.

  12. vickys says:

    You have plenty of magic I reckon, in the way your write and share your life with us. πŸ™‚ That’s my kinda magic.

    And food is something kinda wonderful isn’t it? I find it odd when people just dismiss it, saying it;s just a meal, a means to survive, but oh boy, it’s so much more. It’s sanity, love, universal. πŸ™‚

  13. There are few things more magical than delicious food like this. THat mole sounds awesome.
    My new blog went up today and I am so excited. Stop by and check out my brand new and improved site daaaahling. I want to know what you think. I’m also doing a fab give away.
    *kisses* HH

  14. elra says:

    Oh I like that movie”Like Water For Chocolate”, love the food she prepared, it was like magic potion. Anyway, I have that magazine, which edition was this? Want to make it Jo, so I’ll bookmark this.

  15. Mari says:

    I love that you always have an anecdote for almost every recipe…it makes it more enjoyable to see the end result!

  16. Jagruti says:

    lke your post…lovely dish!!

  17. Chou says:

    Phew, I’m glad it was not your life we were talking about. Lovely dinner!

  18. Debinhawaii says:

    Wonderful post! I really love how you captured the essence and ultimate message of the book so well. That mole cream sauce looks amazingly good too!

  19. Piper says:

    I would have never thought to make pumpkin mole sauce! This looks healthy but full of flavor!

  20. Mimi says:

    I’ve never heard of pumpkin mole. Your dinner looks delicious. I’ll have to try pumpkin mole!

  21. Sounds awesome – I bet it would really be awesome in the fall with fresh pumpkin.

  22. Andreas says:

    Recipe sounds good.
    Nice plating. πŸ™‚

  23. Phew! I’m so relieved to know that story is from a BOOK and not your life!!! πŸ™‚ This is scrumptiously wonderful! πŸ™‚

  24. Debbi Smith says:

    This looks fantastic, I’d even eat asparagus I think if I had this. The pictures are wonderful!

  25. Radhika says:

    I love mole! There is a little taqueria in Durham which I haunt for the mole. Yours looks equally delicious and its even got pumpkin!

  26. I join the gang of lovers of mole sauce too….oh the mexican stories……..exciting but all the more is ur mole sauce ,havent tried it with pumpkin added though:-))))0
    Love ur pic here and u sure do know of the best events in blogo-town:-))))

  27. Gulmohar says:

    Joanne, you’re a super student, who cooks and blogs about it..hats off to you πŸ™‚
    This is a delicious platter..

  28. Bob says:

    Mmmm, mole. Heh, I had a friend who was really into that when it came out as a movie. She tried to make me watch it but I managed to escape… πŸ˜‰

  29. ruchikacooks says:

    Beautiful presentation as always Jo!

    Thanks for the entry, I am sure it is gonna be useful the next time I touch a hot stove. Potato peel- would have not thought of it-I thought honey was an ancient cure, they say back home that honey can soothe the irritation, any thoughts on this?

    I may end up baking a dessert for the Irish event- made some buns today- I know you’ll throw a saucepan at me if I ever called those as Irish buns πŸ˜‰

  30. Martha says:

    Food is definitely magic! Awesome as always Joanne. I don’t know how you do it all, you never cease to amaze me πŸ™‚

  31. Pam says:

    Wow – what a fantastic meal. The photo is excellent!

  32. msmeanie says:

    I just watched Rick Bayless make mole on PBS last weekend. It looked like a lot of work but oh so worth it. This dish could easily be your “magic” as it looks very tasty and perfect for welcoming Spring!

  33. Amy says:

    OMG! I JUST did that yesterday – pulled a skillet out of the oven and forgot to put on a mitt. I have a huge blister. And it hurts like a mother.

    And wait a sec…are you implying that Santa doesn’t exist? Hm.

  34. aquadaze says:

    I loved reading this post – but then I love reading most of yours!

  35. oh I second fresh local and best I don’t know how you find time as well, love love love this sauce, enjoy the mustard seeds LOL

  36. Mmm, that looks great! I have never made a mole sauce. It is on the list! Great choice.

  37. Mary says:

    You’ve really done a wonderful job with the challenge. I have always loved the book and the movie. This looks like a fantastic meal.

  38. MaryMoh says:

    A fabulous dish. Love that pumpkin sauce. Looks very delicious.

  39. Olive says:

    I’m one of those who doesn’t know what a mole sauce is but judging from your post and the comments, it sounds really, really good. this will be on my list of must-try recipes.. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  40. Sophie says:

    Waw,…Joanne!! What a fabulously looking tasty dish!! So apart & so special too!!

    I love that sauce!! MMMMMMMMM,…

  41. grace says:

    sometimes i think that magic in an edible form is the best kind out there. πŸ™‚
    i love all things spicy, and i’m pretty intrigued by this sauce. the plate’s a looker, there’s no doubt about that–nicely done!

  42. food does hold a lot of power and that mole was making me drool even at 6 am this morning…..yum! have a great day Joanne πŸ™‚

  43. Pam says:

    Girlie…you sure can cook! Are you sure you don’t want to open a cafe…yumm!


  44. Sippity Sup says:

    I so agree about food being tied to emotions and memory. It’s what makes it such a powerful muse. GREG

  45. So mole is definitely on the super long list of things to make at home. Haven’t found a good restaurant mole anywhere! This is a fun variation.

  46. Mamatkamal says:

    This chicken looks fabulous! Wonderful!

  47. Velva says:

    I read the book years ago and loved it. I loved the message too.
    Great post.

  48. The pumpkin mole sauce sounds amazing, terrific meal!

  49. Tia says:

    mmmmmmmmm I am suddenly craving asparagus

  50. Chris says:

    That is an amazing recipe and great presentation. I’m genuinely blown away. I’ll be trying this, I love chicken and asparagus and I’m intrigued by mole.

    I’ve only been lucky at love once but that was all it took.

  51. This is such a unique mole! I never saw one with pumpkin in it! This is definitely worth a try – I haven’t found a mole that I like. This could be ‘the one’.

  52. Faith says:

    Your mole definitely looks magical, I love the pumpkin in it! I’m all about home remedies too, I’ll have to check out that event!

  53. Catherine says:

    Wow this sounds deliciuos Joanne! Have a wonderful day! Cheers~

  54. This looks great Joanne! I love mole but have never attempted it at home. The pictures just pop right out and say eat me!!!

  55. tigerfish says:

    Rest in the slender arms of thy asparagus, oh chicken! with thy pumpkin mole blancket ;p

  56. Sook says:

    What a beautifully presented dish! I’ve never had pumpkin mole but looks delicious!

  57. Cynthia says:

    Wow, what a creative way to make mole sauce! It sounds delicious! I love the sort of sweet and smoky taste with the pumpkin and the chipotle peppers. That book is on my reading list so hopefully I can get to it soon. I’ll be sure to look for the home remedies for the next time I’m clumsy.

  58. Bridgett says:

    This is incredibly creative and such an amazing meal. The flavors, the colors…everything. Stellar photos as well. The mole sauce has me craving some NOW!

  59. Katerina says:

    To me food brings family together. Food means communication, exchange of ideas, dreams, feelings. I love chicken and this looks irresistible.

  60. Goodness appetite! You just made a vegetarian drool (now that is cool).

  61. Katy ~ says:

    Pumpkin mole is new to me but I would sure like to try it. And asparagus says spring to me. Beautifully prepared!

  62. Shirley says:

    Hmmm. This must be Umami!

  63. Michelle says:

    A pumpkin mole sauce sounds so good! Bet it would be good on Chicken Tacos too!

  64. Claudia says:

    We had to do a Mole Poblano for Recipes to Rival in Feb. and the recipe used 1/2 cup of raisins, which definitely gave it a bit of sweetness. Your honey addition was an easier take as you can simply adjust to taste.

  65. Ben says:

    Pumpkin mole sauce is one of the best moles I’ve ever tasted, not because I made it for the first time a couple of years ago, mind me, but because I love pumpkin. Hehe. Great job and I do agree that although the book can be irritating at times, the final message is what made me fall in love with it.

  66. rental mobil says:

    Sounds awesome – I bet it would really be awesome in the fall with fresh pumpkin.

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