Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holy Mole!

One of my culinary loves is the mole. Spicy, sweet, rich. Despite this, I have never attempted to make it myself. A few months ago, we watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives that featured moles from the Red Iguana restaurant. One in particular – the Mole Negro -  required more than two dozen ingredients – needless-to-say, this is exactly the kind of cooking challenge I enjoy – but it was too complicated to write-down completely at the time. However, for Christmas, I received “More DD&D”, which contained this recipe (pp. 237-238). I hope you’re as inspired as I was.

The Method
Some recipes are really exercises in preparation and organization. This mole requires a well-stocked pantry. I had to make a few substitutions here – after researching the acceptable alternates. It contains almost 30 ingredients, but none needs any extensive prep.


In order of appearance, by column (L to R):

  • 7 pasilla negro chiles (guajillo as substitute)
  • 6 mulatto chiles (ancho as substitute)
  • 1 quart hot water
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1 flour tortilla, roughly torn
  • 1 overripe banana/plantain
  • 1 small poblano chile, stemmed/seeded/chopped
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled/chopped
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C raisins
  • 6 whole sprigs of epazote (I used 1 TB dried)
  • 3 whole springs cilantro
  • 1/3 C walnuts, roasted/chopped
  • 1/3 C salted peanuts (I used peanut-only peanut butter)
  • 2 ounces Mexican chocolate (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 avocado leaf (Nope, couldn’t find one – maybe an avocado rind next time?)
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. anise seeds
  • 3/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 3/4 tsp. dried whole thyme
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 C sugar (I also added 2 TB dark brown sugar)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles (pasilla and mulatto).
  2. Soak the dried chiles in hot water for 20 minutes (keep the water).
  3. Heat 1/4 C oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Toast the tortilla in the oil until golden brown.
  5. Add the banana/plantain, poblano, tomatoes, garlic, onion, raisins, epazote, and cilantro.
  6. Sauté until poblano and onion are soft.P1010010
  7. Add the nuts, chiles and their soaking water, chocolate, bay leaf, avocado leaf, and all the spices (peppercorns through cinnamon stick).
  8. Simmer for 10 minutes.P1010012
  9. Remove the bay leaf and clove. (Finding the clove was a minor miracle, but doing so in under 20 seconds told me this sauce was preordained for gastronomical greatness.)
  10. Transfer the very hot mole to a blender and puree until smooth. You want it to be the consistency of tomato sauce. Add water if necessary.
  11. Heat 1/4 C oil in the deep pot over high heat.
  12. Carefully pour the mole into the pot. (This is very dangerous, as the sauce is thick and slurpy – it likes to pop and sputter.)
  13. Stir in the sugar and then salt to taste.
  14. Simmer for 15 minutes – partially covered to reduce splattering.P1010014 
The Results
Magnificent. I lightly seasoned and browned several chicken breasts then cooked them in the simmering mole for 15 minutes or so. We ate these sliced in homemade tortillas with a few refried beans, lettuce, and fresh avocado.

The sauce hits you with some initial sweetness and a little heat in the front of your mouth. After a few seconds, the heat travels back and becomes deeper, but the chocolate and toasted nuts suddenly appear, too. You could probably discern many of the primary ingredients, if you set your mind to it.

Moles are a treasure. This one seems especially forgiving because of the number and variety of ingredients. I’m dreaming of variations already…but for now, we have plenty of leftovers.


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Anonymous said...

Holy Mole that was great! I sauteed lightly seasoned chicken tenders, cut them up, then heated tortillas and to them added fresh spinach, shredded Jack cheese, carmelized onion,the chicken and the Mole sauce. Rolled it up and it was heaven! The Mole is chocolaty with the right amount of heat. Smooth to go with a bit of tortilla crunch. Lots of texture in my tortilla, the mole was perfect!!!

Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009