cucina bene; mangia bene (Magnificent mole)
Happy New Year! In this first post of 2012, I’d like to start off talking about my favorite Mexican sauces: mole. Moles are prefect for winter; they are spicy and thick and taking the time to make one is a great way to spend a stormy day indoors. What is mole you ask? Mole is Spanish for a Nahuatl word (molli) which means ‘sauce’. So mole is sauce that is native to Mexico. You can see that by how it is thickened with either ground nuts, seeds, or corn and always contain chiles, another native ingredient. Moles are time consuming to make so they are always considered for special occasions.
Mole is Mexico’s national dish and there are many variations. For example: mole poblano is from the town of Puebla and uses ancho and guajillo chiles. It’s the most common mole available and if you’ve eaten mole in a Mexican restaurant, it’s most likely what you’ve had. Oaxaca is famous for seven different kinds of mole, and other regions throughout Mexico are known for various green moles.
Mole contains ingredients such as cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chiles, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, tortillas, onion, garlic, stock, tomatillos, chocolate, cilantro, epazote, and raisins—just to name a few. Most of these ingredients are fried individually and then put into a food processor to be pureed. The resulting mixture is strained, and then cooked until its thickened. Making mole is similar to making Thai or Indian curries as the list of ingredients can be lengthy and the steps complex. Despite the fact that it is time consuming, it is an excellent sauce to stock in your freezer as it keeps well and a batch of it can make many meals. Mole poblano is delicious with poultry or pork; I made this type of mole for Thanksgiving one year and served it with roasted turkey instead of gravy. I made a myriad of dishes with the leftovers such as enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tostadas, etc. over a few months.
Yellow and green moles are delicious with fish such as halibut or tuna. These moles use fresh green chiles instead of dried red ones along with tomatillos, contain no chocolate, and often have fruit in them like bananas or plantains. In the summer, when fresh albacore is available here, I make yellow or green mole and serve it with the tuna grilled. With some fresh corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, cilantro, olives, tomatoes, and other condiments, it’s a delicious way to enjoy fish.
I’m including a link to a yellow mole recipe from Saveur magazine that is easy to make and is very versatile. While it calls for chicken, you can certainly make it with pork, fish or vegetables. Try it and let me know what you think. A presto!