HEN I WAS a kid, the day after Hallowe’en was the saddest day of the year. The vampires were back in their coffins, the mummies in their sarcophagi, the zombies snug in their wormy soil . . . It’s now closer to a week after Hallowe’en, and I’m still struggling to catch up with my horror and food pairings. Let’s make believe that these posts are a sop to everybody who misses October, rather than evidence of my laziness and inefficiency in the face of a deadline. Let’s turn our attention to a tried and true classic: Pumpkinhead.
The first thing you need to know about pumpkin seed mole—“mole” is Spanish for “concoction,” according to Wikipedia—is that you can’t make it with the seeds what come out of your jack-o-lantern. You have to buy these little green guys, called pepitas, in the Hispanic section of your grocery store’s insultingly small international food section. In an iron skillet, toast a half cup of them with a teaspoon of cumin seeds, half a teaspoon of oregano, and half a teaspoon of cracked black pepper, on medium heat for five or six minutes. Let the mixture cool somewhat before powdering it in a blender.
Next, put all the ingredients depicted above and listed here in a food processor: “tomatillos, serrano chile, garlic, lettuce, cinnamon, cilantro, radish tops, onion and salt.” It will look just like spicy brains, and you will want to eat it.
“Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan heat olive oil over a high heat. Carefully, pour in pureed tomatillo mixture, and let sizzle for 30 seconds. Stir in stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir in ground nut mixture and remove from the heat. Puree in a food processor or blender, in batches, if necessary. Pass through a fine strainer, pressing with the back of a ladle to extract all the juices, into a 13 x 10-inch flameproof baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in the sauce and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve the chicken and sauce over a bed of white rice. Sprinkle radish slices over the top.”
POSTSCRIPT: I neglected to mention that you should not pass your mole through a fine strainer. I have no idea where the author of this recipe got that bright idea, but even were you able to get this thick mess through a screen, it would completely ruin the consistency. It’s ready when it comes out of the blender.