Duck with Mole Poblano

Hugo Ortega

Hugo’s, Houston

"Mole is a national treasure of Mexico, and Mexico is the only country that truly makes it. It’s not just a simple sauce—it has more ingredients than most people think. Our mole poblano has 25 ingredients and is delicious served with tender duck confit and steamed white rice." —JBF Award winner Hugo Ortega


Duck Confit:

  • 8 to 10 sprigs thyme
  • 8 duck legs, cleaned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups duck fat, melted
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 4 dried ancho pepper
  • 4 dried mulato peppers
  • 2 dried pasilla peppers
  • 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 lobe star anise
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 large tomatillos
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided
  • Two 1-inch slices baguette (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons raisins
  • 1/2 plantain ripe plantain, sliced
  • 1/2 onion white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sliced almonds
  • 1/3 bar Mexican chocolate, chopped (such as Abuelita)
  • 4 cups chicken stock

To serve:

  • Toasted white sesame seeds
  • Steamed rice


Make the duck confit: preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a 9x13 inch baking pan, set the springs of thyme on the bottom of the pan and set aside. Season the duck legs with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a skillet or a thick sauté pan over medium heat and set the duck legs skin-side-down. Sear the duck until the legs are brown, about 7 minutes. Flip the duck and brown the flesh for about 5 minutes. Remove and arrange the legs skin-side-down in the pan on top of the thyme springs. Add the melted duck fat and cover with aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and almost falling away from the bone. Let the duck cool completely. If you store the duck in the fat, the shelf life will be longer, approximately 3 months.

Make the mole: devein the peppers and remove the seeds, making sure to set the seeds aside for later. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the peppers in a single layer, and toast for 1 to 3 minutes, turning constantly until the color darkens but the peppers are not burned. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water, transfer to a plate, and set aside until ready to use.

Heat the same skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and star anise and toast until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. In the same skillet, add the sesame seeds and reserved pepper seeds and toast until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to the bowl with the other spices. In the hot skillet, add the Mexican oregano and thyme and toast until golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl with the toasted spices. Add the cinnamon.

Heat the skillet again over medium heat and add the tomatoes and tomatillos, turning occasionally until they’re blackened and blistered, and soft when pinched, about 15 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small fry pan until shimmering over medium heat. If using bread, fry the bread until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Using tongs, remove the bread and set aside. Add the raisins and fry until they plump up and change color, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue the frying process, stirring occassionaly. Fry the plantains until golden, about 3 minutes. Fry the onions until golden, about 5 minutes. Next, fry the garlic until golden, about 2 minutes. Fry the pumpkin seeds until toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Lastly, fry the almonds until just brown, about 5 minutes.

Working in small batches, purée the peppers in a blender, adding chicken stock as needed, until smooth. The mixture will have a thick consistency, similar to a paste. Set aside. Working in batches, purée the spices, sesame seeds, tomatillos, tomatoes, bread, plantains, onions, garlic, pumpkin seeds, and almonds until smooth, adding chicken stock as needed. By the end you should have used all the chicken stock.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the rest of the oil until hot. Fry the chile paste, stirring constantly until it changes color, about 10 minutes. Add the other puréed ingredients and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mole thickens and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Add the chocolate and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

To serve, remove the duck confit from its fat. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Set an ovenproof frying pan on the stove and heat until hot. Add the duck legs, skin-side-down, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the duck legs skin-side-up and place the pan in the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes, until warmed through and crisp.

To plate, arrange the duck leg in the middle of each plate and pour the mole on top, covering just half of the duck to show some of the crispy skin. Sprinkle with toasted white sesame seeds and serve with rice.


6 to 8 servings