Moving on through my menu of central Mexican cuisine past the somewhat disastrous Chicken in Sandals brings me to what is in some ways the quintessential Mexican dish, mole. Specifically Mole Poblano.
According to this site, the original mole sauce undisputedly originated in Puebla, Mexico. However, there are two myths that claim its genesis.
In the first legend, the recipe, you could say, was a gift from the heavens. According to this one, a group of nuns went into a panic upon learning that the Archbishop was to visit, and after frantic praying, an angel inspired them to mix different types of chiles together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients. This concoction boiled and reduced to the thick, sweet, mole sauce we know today and poured over an old turkey. The Archbishop was delighted at this feast, the nuns rejoiced and mole poblano came to be.
The other legend states that mole came from the Aztecs king, Moctezuma, thinking the conquistadors were gods, served mole to Cortez at a banquet to receive them.
Either way, mole poblano is now a dish synonymous with Mexican cooking throughout the world.
To be honest, I hesitated in making mole sauce since historically I’ve found it underwhelming. I’d had it on a few occasions and thought it was “meh.” It tends to be too “muddy” for my tastes. However, a few weeks ago at Fava’s annual Disco Christmas, I had her rendition of mole sauce atop some turkey meatballs and realized it had the potential to be not all that bad. After reading recipe after recipe, I decided to create my own, merging Fava’s with the one from Epicurious. So, perhaps not 100% authentic, it combined the elements I liked from both, eliminating much of the frying from the latter, adding readily available spices from the former, and, all-in-all, making a potentially laborious and pain-stakingly long process somewhat manageable.
Since this recipe is really all about the mole, I took a shortcut (gasp!) and served this with store-bought fully cooked turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s. I’d never had them before, but after having them at Disco Christmas, I figured it was the perfect shortcut to take.
Ingredient note: I was surprised to find that my trusty Spice House had all of the different kind of chiles I needed for this recipe. I’m aware that if you’re making this at home without access to specialty or ethnic store, you may not be able to find all of them, but if you can at least find anchos and maybe one other (arbol, for example), you should be able to do this just fine.
- 4 mulato chiles
- 3 pasilla chiles
- 3 ancho chiles
- 2 TB tomato paste
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon (preferably Canela)
- 1/8 tsp ground coriander
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
- ½ TB seeds from the chiles, toasted
- ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
- ½ head roasted garlic (can be done the day before)**
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 2 TB pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
- 4 cups chicken or turkey stock, warmed
- 3 TB olive oil or other lard
- First, work with the chiles. Clean and seed the chiles (reserving ½ TB), and dry toast them until fragrant. In a separate bowl , place the toasted chiles and cover with warm stock. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Second, while the chiles are soaking, work on the rest.
- In a separate saucepan, add 1 TB oil and quickly fry the sesame seeds. Set aside.
- In that same saucepan, add 1 TB oil, and quickly fry the almonds. Set aside.
- Again, in that same saucepan, add 1 TB oil, and quickly fry the pumpkin seeds. Set aside.
- Once the chiles are done, add them, the tomato paste, garlic, spices, seeds and nuts to a blender and puree until smooth. Add this puree to a large saucepan with the remaining stock over medium heat and let reduce to desired thickness. At that point, add the chocolate and stir until the sauce is nice and smooth. You’re done!
- Serve any way you want it. That’s the way you need it.
- If you’re making this at home without access to specialty or ethnic store, you may not be able to find all of the chiles, but if you can at least find anchos and maybe one other (arbol, for example), you should be able to do this just fine.