February 26, 2019
I have several obsessions, molé being one of them. I have had the pleasure and been blessed to travel and eat some phenomenal dishes, in our travels throughout many lands. But, I can say, no dish offers the layers, dimensions and complexities of flavors that molé does. I have seen moles dark as mud! Mole runs through my blood!It has also been called the “national dish” of Mexico. Augie and I had the honor of taking a molé negro cooking class in Mexico. It was an experience of a lifetime, comparable to our Tuscany cooking class in Cortona, Italy or our cooking class in Algarve where we made Cataplana. The Cataplana is a regional culinary classic. Its appearance may be unusual, but the unique cataplana is a true symbol of the Algarve’s culinary tradition of seafood. Named after the cookware in which it is prepared. Typically it was copper, but now made of stainless steel.
“Two states in Mexico claim to be the origin of molé. Puebla and Oaxaca, the best-known molés are native to these two states, but other regions in Mexico also make various types of molé sauces.”There are several legends as to the origins of molé. Many years ago, this is the one I learned and I like of the brief history of molé while in college.
It goes along these lines, that 16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de Los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They used what they had and began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chiles together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients..
This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant molé sauce we know today. Although many believe the word mole comes from the Spanish word moler, meaning “to grind” it actually comes from a Nahuatl (Aztec) word, molli meaning, “sauce” or “mixture.”
They killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it. The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face. Little did they know they were creating the Mexican National dish for holidays and feasts, and that today, millions of people worldwide have at least heard of molé poblano.
Mole of Every Color
For your information and to my surprise, our teacher did not use a lot of chocolate in our molè negro recipe above, just a small piece. I was under the belief we would be using much more. Most of that dark, intense, rich flavor comes from all of the roasting of chilies, seeds, nuts, fruits, etc. And, secondly every family has their own molé recipe, passed down from generation to generation. For instance, my family in Guadalajara uses toasted BIROTE in addition to corn tortilla for thickening the molè.
Sorry, I don’t have a recipe for you. When I am asked for a recipe, I panic. Since I cook from feeling, taste, and Mi Corazon. I do not use recipes, for the food I learned to cook by Mi Mama. I can give you a list of ingredients. But, this dish is not about combining ingredients! You really need to have someone guide you; for instance on how long and desired color to achieve when roasting chilies, seeds, nuts, etc. Mole is very complex and deep-rooted in history. If you are seriously interested in learning how to make molé I would suggest a class or researching “many” u-tube videos. And, then develop a recipe to make it your own. For example, I do not like sweet molés, I prefer mine a little picoso (hot) with the slightest hint of sweetness. Molé takes many practices and trials and errors, similar to tamales. Molé is not the type of dish you see or make once and that’s it! Just recently, I viewed Abuelita Esperanza from Oaxaca, making an almond molé “Estofada Almendrada,” on u-tube with Erik Kennon. I will attempt to make this next, I feel confident I can master it.
And, lastly I feel compelled to add, you can give five different people the same ingredients and recipe, and they’ll all come out tasting different. Every person has their own, I don’t know what you call it! Their own love, soul, touch, flavor. I have seen some very simple molès that start with a flour rue, a puréed mixture of chilies, tomatillos, garlic and a few spices that can be made in a few hours for dinner and are delicious. Of course different, to 40 ingredient molés; which require a days work, it won’t compare, but it will be good in a pinch!
Oaxaca boasts an impressive 7 kinds of mole. It’s not all chiles & chocolate in the land of mole. Here is a listing of them.
This is the granddaddy or king of all the moles. All of the ingredients were laid out when we arrived. With 6 kinds of dried chilies, raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, onion, garlic, tomatillo, tomato, tortilla, plantains, bread, marjoram, thyme, avocado leaves, cinnamon stick, oregano, chocolate, and more.
2. Rojo or Poblano
This sweeter, spicier and more versatile version is amped up with several kinds of dried red chile like pasilla, guajillo and ancho as well as pulverized raisins and almonds or peanuts. When the sauce is done, browned chicken, pork or beef is typically added and stewed until tender.
Somewhere between rojo and negro in color, this brown mole shares the base ingredients of whole spices, onions, garlic, seeds and chocolate and features an awesome secret ingredient for thickening and sweetening: mashed ripe plantain.
Picture all the goodness of the first three moles without the sweet stuff and no chocolate. And you have a delicious basic sauce to pour over or use as a cooking base for myriad Mexican purposes. It’s not unlike a simple Indian curry sauce, the sky’s the limit.
Extra pepitas or pipian, along with fresh tomatillos, jalapenos and cilantro are the key ingredients in bright green mole verde. It can be diluted with chicken stock when it’s finished and poured over cooked chicken to make a soupy sauce mopped up with tortillas or bread.
This one’s a little more intense. Round up all the beef bones you can find, you’re going to need them. This dark, spicy sauce starts with rich, homemade beef stock. The stock rehydrates dried chiles de arbol, anchos and guajillos which you then blend with the usual slow-cooked garlic and onions. Mole chichilo is thickened with either masa harina, lime-cured corn flour, or crushed fresh tortillas. No chocolate here, either. Excellent for braises.
This “tablecloth-staining” mole lives up to its reputation: between the bright red chorizo grease, tomatoes and ancho chiles, you do not want to get this stuff on anything white. Featuring fresh pineapple in addition to plantain, manchamantel is a sweet, spicy, fruity sauce any protein would be lucky to cook in.
Abrazos y Besos