Friday, February 22, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ Culebra

Today's free range menu is brought to you by Extreme Randomness. It can't be bought in a store near you, but it can be sampled almost everywhere. Especially here.

If you have a lot to do today, you better start early. Bonus? Sunrise from dawning.
Small islands, and probably small towns anywhere in the world, have a commonality in the markets, even if you have the most exotic market ever (and I'm jealous, trust me). I've mentioned this before, but it comes up again once in awhile...the Stare. It's the same stare you have gazing into your refrigerator, sure that if you look long enough, something new will be in there that is exactly what you want, not the same old things you yourself put there.

So I was wandering the aisles of Milka, with The Stare and after walking by it a few times saw Goya Mole (Moh-lay). I love mole, its complex flavors of spice and chocolate, nuts and did I mention spice? It's a rich dish, and well worth trying, if you haven't before. The first time I bought this (and actually, the last time too, out in Texas with Jack) the jar isn't a screw top, it ends up being an extra glass, with a press down top. But this is what I found and this is what I bought.

It's Cheater's Mole, if you will. I've had 'from scratch' mole before, once. And I've made it myself. Once. You'll see why after reading this recipe, which is as close to the real deal I had, living in a Mexican neighborhood, the first meal prepared by Mexican woman I worked with who had grandma recipes. It's fun to make it, if you have a long day. Otherwise, Cheater's Mole. Found in a jar. This time, a Goya jar. And no, Goya is not a sponsor. Though they should be!

The ingredients in this are about as close to the real deal as you get
 MJ's Cheater's Mole -

Chicken thighs (how many are you feeding? Two thighs per person would be about right) or other chicken pieces if you must.
Mole in a jar (you might not find Goya, but there are others just as good, most likely in the Mexican section of your market if you are not lucky enough to have a Mexican market)
Water or chicken broth - of course, broth is better
2 T. olive oil
Minced onion for garnish
Avocado (optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, closer to high than medium, cast iron preferably, but something heavy enough to not scorch and stick, it's going to be cooking awhile. Brown the chicken on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside. Lower the heat to medium.

Take a couple of generous tablespoons of the mole and put it in the pan along with twice the amount of water or chicken broth. Stir until the mole is smooth.

Return the chicken and continue to cook over a simmering heat. You can cook this for another 15 to 20 minutes or cook it another hour, depending on how much you want your chicken to fall off the bone. I like the longer cooking time.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare your rice. Rice is 2 to 1 pretty much, no matter what type you cook, 2 parts water to one part rice. In this case, I steal a little of the mole sauce and add it to the rice water. Bring the rice and water to a boil, let it boil up to five minutes. Put it on simmer, covered, for another ten minutes and then shut it down. In another 15 minutes or so, you should have perfect rice.

Try to time your rice to be done the same time as your chicken. Synchronicity is a beautiful thing in cooking.

You can make a bed of rice and put the chicken with the mole sauce on top, or mix it up, like I did. For a dinner party, best to keep them separate and let each guest serve themselves, with the garnishes, onion and avocado slices, on the side.

Buen provecho!

Happy Hour at Dinghy Dock found me with some Maine friends I always look forward to seeing and hanging out with. Unfortunately, the female side of the couples weren't there, one down with a pinched nerve (exciting vacations on Culebra aren't for the faint of heart) and one with some beach tired kids, at least that's the story I heard, Johnna! Hoping you're healed up soon, Vickie. Take a pillow for the plane!

It was also Mike's birthday, a fun stumble into surprise. Balloon John had been busy!

Helena was there, emulating her Dad!

How cool is that beard? AND it's a banyan tree root! So I was told.
And finally, the finally finished project I showed here quite awhile back of the door counter and homemade sink. This came about as Francie and I were doing some renovation on a friends casita. The kitchen counter sort of fell apart in my hands, made of whatever that stuff is that eventually turns to mush around here. A solution was needed. This is what we came up with, though Francie did the extremely creative work.

Take one solid wood door with recessed panels. Build legs for it. Cut a hole in it for a sink. Built a sink to fit the hole out of wood that you seal with epoxy. Cut a drain hole in that sink. Cover the entire sink with broken tile, grout it, seal it. Take more tile (all of this tile was laying around from other projects) and set it into the recessed panels, grout it in there.

And wa-la! You have a really cute, very unique kitchen. A curtain will cover the under the sink bits but over all, it's done! Of course I left out install of the faucet, the tearing down old cupboards, building more counter space and shelfs with other recycled bits, but there's that too. For a small space, it's a big little kitchen.

And there you have it. If you have to build a kitchen to cook your chicken mole, so be it, now you know what to do for both.

Have a find and fix your freedom Friday! Do something flexible.


  1. What a beautiful and unique countertop and sink! I love it. Also, I just bought a jar of Mole. The recipe sounds yummy. New way to eat chicken. I'm with you, the thigh is the best. Jim Harrison devotes a whole chapter to the virtues of the chicken thigh,in his book 'The Raw and the Cooked'.

    1. Awesome! The trick is slow and low, to let the flavors meld. Even out of a jar, it needs time to get mellow. Enjoy! I don't know who Jim Harrison is, but I'll find out. Chicken thighs cannot be overestimated in being so incredibly versatile. Thanks!

    2. Oh, and glad you enjoyed the countertop and sink, it's my favorite of any on Culebra.

  2. Definitely, island chic kitchen design. Also, about Dinghy Dock. There seems to be a fixation on facial hair disguise techniques, there...;-)=

    1. We do have quite the facial hair variety here. Not uncommon in island bars, scalliwags most!