"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Making Mole (Happy Birthday)


Tomorrow is Homero's birthday, and we are having a party. Nothing as huge as last year's - no Mariachis, no rented canopies - just a few families coming over to eat some goat barbacoa and drink beers around a fire. Homero will butcher Bambi, our smallest goat, tomorrow and give it to our friend Carlos' wife to cook.

I was surprised and a little hurt when he told me he was having somebody else cook the goat.  I had been poring over my cookbooks looking for some good recipes. However, I consoled myself that I would have plenty of cooking to do with beans, rice, three different salsas, aguas frescas, etc. I guess can I can get over the disappointment of not having to watch a giant stewpot full of goat meat all day long.

Then Homero began to fret that there wouldn't be enough food. I seriously doubt that - Bambi weighs about 85 pounds on the hoof and ought to provide a good twenty to twenty five pounds of muscle meat. Shred that up and it will make a lot of tacos. Homero, though, lives in terror that the food will run out, or that even if it doesn't, it might look like it could possibly run out and he will be nervous. He, like my mom, prefers that when a party is ended there is approximately 80% as much food on the table as there was at the beginning. So I suggested that I could cook a turkey (there's one in the freezer) and make mole.

Homero raised his eyebrow at me. He said "You want to make mole? You've never made mole before."

"I know that," I said, "but I think I can do it."

"Okay," he said skeptically, "but when my mom and sister make mole it takes two days."

"So I'll start today. If it doesn't work out, there will be plenty of time to go buy some."

Just in case anybody doesn't know what mole is, I'll do my best to explain. Mole means "sauce" and so it is.... there are many, many moles, and they vary wildly, but all of them have in common that they are a thick, smooth sauce made from a mixture of chiles, nuts, spices, and fruits. Probably there closest analog of mole in the American culinary lexicon is barbecue sauce - it's complex, savory and highly flavored, and everybody has their own secret recipe. Mole can be yellow, red, black, or even green. But what most people think of when they think of mole is Mole Poblano, the famous dark brown glossy version that contains chocolate.

I looked through my cookbooks. I looked up recipes online. I must have read through a half dozen recipes for mole poblano, and no two of them alike. Some contained tomatoes, others not. Some called for plantain; some for prunes, some for apple or raisins. All called for some kind of nut but in some cases it was peanuts, in others pecans. Other constants were sesame and chocolate, but in differing amounts. I decided I could simply use what I had and add one more variation to the theme.



Here is my recipe - although I will probably never make it exactly the same way twice!

15 guajillo chiles, 10 ancho chiles, and 2 chilpotle chiles. Break open and shake out seeds, reserving seeds. 

Toast chiles on a dry cast iron skillet about 3 minutes, turning. Do not let scorch! Put in a blender and cover with boiling chicken stock. Let soak 1 hour. 

Meanwhile: on same skillet, toast 4 roma tomatoes, one yellow onion (quartered) and 4 cloves garlic until blackened in spots. Get some good char on them. Set aside. Also toast 10 allspice berries, 10 cloves, and a teaspoon cumin seed and set aside. Toast the reserved chile seeds separately, until quite dark, and add to the other spices. 

In another skillet, heat 1/2 c. of lard. Okay, you CAN use vegetable oil, but I don't recommend it. Fry 1/2 c. of raisins, a cut up apple, and a quarter cup apiece of peanuts and pecans. Add three torn-up corn tortillas and a slice of bread. Yes, that's what I said. In the last minute, after everything else is fragrant and fried, add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and fry another minute. Remove from heat.

When chiles are soft, blend well and then dump the blender into a really big bowl, and add ALL the other ingredients. Also add 3 oz chopped Mexican chocolate (or semi-sweet baking chocolate if you can't find Mexican chocolate) and 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Mix well. What a mess. 

Working in batches, puree this big mess in the blender. This will work best if you have a heavy duty blender like a vitamin, but if not just keep blending. I blend each batch for a full minute on "ice-crush" and then dump it back in the same big bowl, stir, and scoop up the next batch. That way each batch keeps blending and re-blending some of the same stuff and it gets smoother. 

You will probably have to add a little liquid - use chicken stock. The final texture will be thicker than ketchup but not as thick as peanut butter. 

Now you can store the mole in a jar in the fridge for practically ever. When you want to use some, heat a little oil in a saucepan, add a cup of mole, and thin with hot stock to the consistency of heavy cream. Serve as a sauce for chicken or turkey, or cheese taquitos. VERY rich.

We had enmolados for dinner last night - just heat some corn tortillas and when they are soft, grab with tongs and dip in the mole. Fold onto a plate, and top with crumbled queso fresco. Makes a very satisfying vegetarian (almost) dinner.