The Chicken Recipe That Changed My Life

Nina Friend
·5 min read

The Chicken Recipe That Changed My Life

Five fantastic chicken dishes that will change your dinner game forever.

Holy Mole

On my last trip to the Bay Area, I landed at SFO and went right to La Guerrera's Kitchen in Oakland, their famous tamales on my brain. But by the time I arrived, just after noon on a Sunday, they had sold out. Lucky for me, chef Ofelia Barajas and her daughter Reyna Maldonado were both working behind the counter of the airy, open kitchen, and they recommended I try the chicken mole instead. It was just cool enough on the patio that by the time I settled into a picnic table with my paper plate of chicken, draped in a velvety red sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, I was grateful for the accompanying stack of fresh tortillas, made with fresh-ground masa. One swipe of the mole sauce, smoky and warming, shook off my jet lag. Later, Barajas shared that the mole was her grandmother Jovita Vargas' recipe from her restaurant in Guerrero, Mexico. Vargas, fiercely protective of her mole, never wrote the recipe down, making it only from taste and memory. Barajas spent years cooking by her grandmother's side and mastered the dish the same way. With Maldonado's help translating, Barajas shared the recipe for the first time, along with some advice: As you fry the individual ingredients, smell and taste them, including the chiles, to create a connection with each—and to learn how to build the layered, complex flavors that make a great mole. —Mary-Frances Heck