In Mexico the fiesta is celebrated on November 1 and 2, and families gather together to prepare elaborate altars called an ofrenda in their homes and cemeteries. Although decorations vary from region to region, most altars are adorned with flowers, candles, candy, foods, drinks, alcohol, and cigars—any of the favorite things that the dearly departed preferred to welcome home the return of their souls.
It is a holiday to celebrate an intimate connection between the living and the dead and the best example of the Mestise cultural evolution blending Catholic and pre-Spanish Mexican religious holidays.
Culinary Institute of America chef and native Mexican Sergio Remolina shares a simple and delicious recipe—Green Pipian Mole Sauce—that was a favorite of both his father and grandfather. "This dish is from Mexico City, my hometown," says Chef Remolina. "Whenever a mole sauce is thickened with pumpkin seeds, it is called Pipian or Pepian. The chicken, rice, and vegetables in this dish are the accompaniments; the Pipian is the star."
Chicken in Green Pipian Mole Sauce
Makes 4 servings
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds, divided use
- 1 pound (8) tomatillos, peeled, rinsed well, and cut into quarters
- 2 epazote leaves
- 1 hojasanta (root beer leaf) leaf
- 2 leaves of romaine lettuce
- 8 sprigs cilantro
- 2 serrano chiles, chopped
- 1/4 white onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Salt to taste
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 2 cups chayote or zucchini, steamed
- 2 cups green beans, steamed
- 4 poached chicken breasts
- Toast the pumpkins seeds in a sauté pan. Put them into a small bowl and allow them to cool to room temperature.
- Place tomatillos, epazote, hojasanta, lettuce, cilantro, serrano chiles, white onion, garlic, and cumin in that order into a blender. Blend until you make a thick paste. If all of the contents are not reaching the blades, turn off the blender and use a spatula to push the contents down into the blender.
- Place 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a deep skillet and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the contents of the blender and fry it in the oil until approximately 15 minutes stirring consistently. If the mixture becomes too thick, add broth or water to get a sauce consistency. Remove from heat.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds for garnish. Place the remaining seeds into the blender and add enough vegetable stock to cover one inch over the seeds. Blend until the seeds become a smooth purée.
- Making sure the saucepan is not on any heat, add the pumpkin seed sauce to the mixture in the saucepan and stir until mixture is completely combined, then season with salt to taste.
- Place two large spoonfuls of rice, three chayotes, some green beans, and one piece of poached chicken onto a plate. Completely cover the chicken with the Green Pipian Mole sauce. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.
Chef's Note: The above recipe makes about 6 cups. Leftover Green Pipian Mole Sauce can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days in the refrigerator or, if frozen properly, up to 6 months. Enjoy it over enchiladas or fried eggs.
Nutrition analysis for Green Pipian Mole Sauce one-ounce serving: 35 calories, 1g protein, 3g carbohydrate, 2.5g fat, 190mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, less than 1g fiber.