“Moles are a large and very ancient tribe of dishes whose name derives from the overall word for sauce (molli) in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. There is no single ingredient, except perhaps for chiles, that is common to each and every example.”
Maricel E. Presilla in The New Taste of Chocolate
There are hundreds of types of mole, none better or more “authentic” than any other. This was a surprise to me when I happened upon bowls piled high with a variety of mole pastes in a market in Cuernavaca. There are white moles, green moles, brown moles, and of course the famed red mole. And most of these moles do not use any chocolate – the ingredient most often associated with mole in the United States.
My favorite mole I have eaten was made from a dry powder. I lived with woman named Lupita in Cuernavaca and she had a favorite person that she bought mole powder from. She taught me how to boil a chicken for a quick chicken stock and then to use the stock to transform the mole powder into a rich and luxurious sauce. At the end she added a few discs of Mexican chocolate. We ate the mole with the cooked chicken from the stock and homemade corn tortillas. I brought home a large bag of that mole powder when I returned to the states. But alas, I ran out many years ago.
The base recipe for this mole comes from a book called The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel E. Presilla. I bought her book after seeing it in an exhibit at a museum in Santa Fe, NM. Later I heard her speak about chocolate at the same museum.
Moles are a magical concoctions of many many different ingredients. Here is what we used to make ours:
new mexican red chilies
Serve this mole with a roast chicken and homemade corn tortillas. Homemade corn tortillas make all the difference – just follow the directions on the back of the masa bag and add a few tablespoons of melted butter for good measure. If you don’t have a tortillas press you can rig one up using two cutting boards, each wrapped with plastic wrap. Place a ball of dough on one cutting board and with even pressure place second cutting board on top and press down.
- 4 ounces ancho chiles
- 4 ounces pasilla chiles
- 4 ounces New Mexican red chiles
- 1 yellow or white onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 1 inch stick of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
- 1/2 cup unroasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 ripe (black) plantain
- 1/3 cup dried prunes
- 1/2 cup currants or raisins
- 3 ounces dark chocolate
- 1/4 cup piloncillo
- 2 teaspoons salt (add more to taste)
- chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. When preheated, place onion and garlic on oven rack. Let bake for 45 minutes until roasted.
Place all chiles in a medium bowl and fill with hot water. Let soak for half an hour or more.
Dry roast almonds and peanuts together in a cast iron skillet on the stove for 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Cup plantain into slices. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and fry plantain slices until golden brown. Remove and let cool.
Toast cardamom pods, cinnamon stick (break into pieces), sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and black peppercorn together in cast iron skillet on stovetop.
Place almonds, peanuts, cardamom, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peppercorns in a high powered blender or food processor. Blend together until a thick paste forms. Add prunes, currants, and fried plantain, keep blending.
Remove chiles from water and add to blender. Remove onion skin from the onion and peel each clove of garlic, add to blender. Add bread to blender as well. Pulse ingredients together, adding up to 1 cup of chile soaking liquid as needed. If mole is very thick, add water or chicken broth to form a looser sauce.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour mole through strainer, pressing along the sides to release the sauce to the bowl below. Discard what is left over in the sieve.
Heat the cast iron skillet up one more time and add a glug of olive oil. Pour in the strained mole sauce and begin to heat through. Add more chicken broth as needed. When mole is hot, add the chopped up dark chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts.
Serve warm, with homemade corn tortillas and chicken.