Making Mole

Making Mole Poblano is a time consuming business, if not a very difficult one. You have to start well in advance, way before you even feel like eating it for dinner – tomorrow nights’ dinner, that’s understood. Making Mole is not rocket science, but finding the right ingredients can be. If you, like I don’t, live close-ish to a mexican market, it’s a simple matter of leaving the house with your elbow-length ingredient list and coming back with everything you needed, plus those mexican popsicles, coconut flavor, mangoes and avocados, because they looked good, tomatillos, because they go so well as a salsa with the nice, thick-cut tortilla chips one aisle down, and some extra queso fresco, since it’s tasty crumbled on many things. And – that pork shoulder had to wait until next time, since it’s time for mole, not carnitas. Next weekend. Did I miss anything?

 

If you have a dried chile cache in your kitchen, or remember to plan ahead, dried chiles and other ingredients are readily available online, of course; but if it’s only a couple of hours until dinnertime, the stash is low and you didn’t plan ahead, or you just don’t feel like a bigger production, then here’s an alternative. Mole is a nut and seed thickened sauce, but in this express version I use flour as thickener; dried chiles are not part of the shopping landscape where I live, so I hoard dried, whole chiles as well as ground chile-powders and whenever we visit friends in California or Martin has to travel for work, the suitcase invariably comes back full of dried chiles – and the occasional batch of fresh Anaheims for Chile Verde. During the last 4 years we have experimented with growing our own and now we have a little greenhouse filled with Ancho, Guajillo and Anaheim chiles, plus a cross between an Ancho and an Anaheim, that Martin and his supersoft paint brush are responsible for, since he plays bee in our green house – we call it the “Anchoheim”.

For this recipe I use Pasilla chile powder, that has some heat, but won’t blow your head off; I am aware that this is a very subjective thing to say, so go ahead and try to find your own comfortable level of heat – it’s not supposed to be a hot sauce, some zing is all you need. Literally mole translates to “sauce”, but for many people it means celebration, a special dish for special occasions – and sometimes the only special thing about the occasion is, that you really, really would like to have some for dinner, today. So here’s a short-notice-recipe that might lack the complexity of the traditional preparation, but it hits the spot when you want it to, and it is, in fact, decent.

Note: Even though this is “speed mole”, be aware that it takes 1 1/2 hours to simmer until the sauce is done, although it takes almost next to no time to put all the ingredients in the pan. I like to eat mole with grilled meats: chicken, pork or turkey and rice. A thought on cinnamon: less is more – it’s only there to give the cocoa some mysterious earthiness, like the mexican chocolate used in less speedy preparations.

Express Mole

enough to sauce 8 split chicken breasts

2 tbsp oil (sunflower, canola, olive, whatever your pantry says to you – just don’t use the extra good
olive oil, you wouldn’t know it was there, after you’re done cooking)
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp chile powder
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp sugar
2 tbsp flour
375 ml (11/2 cups) chicken broth
700 g (1.5 lb) tomatoes

1. Chop the garlic and the onion.

2. Combine all the spices and the flour in a small bowl and set aside for later.

3. Skin the tomatoes: score the tomatoes crosswise at the bottom. Bring water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the tomatoes, kill the heat and drop them into the hot water. When you can see the skin peeling back from the score marks at the bottom, drain the tomatoes and run cold water over them. You should be able to slip them right out of their skins now. Chop.

4. Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil.

5. Add the spice-mixture to the pot and stir until all the oil is absorbed and the cocoa-spice-mix becomes fragrant, about a minute.

6. Add the chicken broth and stir vigorously; since there’s flour in the mix, it will want to clump up on you – keep stirring and when it looks like there’s no bigger lumps left, add the tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil.

7. Turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for  1 1/2 hours. This sauce likes to stick to the bottom of the pan, so stir it once in a while Рbe careful when you stick the spoon in, though, it also likes to build a skin on the surface and when you break it with your spoon, it will likely reward you with burning hot sauce on your arm or your favorite T-Shirt for your efforts.

8. Blend the mole (careful, hot), using either a blender or an immersion blender; both works just fine.

9. Taste and, depending on the saltiness of the chicken broth, add more salt, or maybe some sugar to round things off; it should be a bit spicy, chocolaty-smooth, with a hint of cinnamon – if you think “christmas cookies”, you have overachieved in the cinnamon department and need to correct the flavor with some more cumin, oregano, or pepper.

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