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Holy Mole

The word for sauce — molli – derives from Nahuatl, an Aztecan language family. And chocolate, one of mole's notable ingredients, was worshiped by ancient Aztecs, reserved for priests and royalty. Mole really was considered to be the food of the gods...

You'll typically see this sauce served over chicken, so it's not impossible to imagine that hundreds of years ago, the sauce was created from roasted and ground chilies, nuts, fruits and chocolate, and enjoyed over turkey.

Made with over 30 ingredients, this mole poblano was worth every bit of time it took to create. It’s silky, smoky, nutty & layered, creating a warmth that lingers on the tongue.

It’s the star of the show, and could be served alone. But I paired it with my mother's classic slow-roasted, spice-rubbed pork shoulder, and blue corn memela-style tortillas in the prehispanic and indigenous tradition in Oaxaca. I was completely inspired by The Chef's Table on Netflix when creating this dish. Once safe travel resumes, I'd love to venture to Oaxaca, México to try the real thing and experience the famous madre mole/ nuevo mole in Mexico City at Pujol, named the Best Restaurant in North America in 2019.

I can't call my sauce a true mole negro, due to its lack of mashed plantains and essential yerba santa, or holy leaf. Fun fact: holy leaf is also known as the root beer plant, for it's shared flavor with the beverage, and a hint of anise.

Here's my take on Mole Poblano, the younger cousin of Mole Negro. And like a true mole, there are no exact measurements. I go by flavor and feel.

Mole Poblano No. 32

1. Pasilla pepper (dried)

2. Guajillo pepper (dried)

3. Mulato pepper (dried)

3. Serrano pepper (fresh)

4. Poblano pepper (fresh)

5. Anaheim pepper (fresh)

6. Fresno pepper (fresh)

7. Chile de árbol (fresh)

8. Yellow jalapeño (fresh)

9. Hungarian wax pepper (fresh)

10. Chipotle

11. New Mexican red pepper

12. Sesame

13. Cashew

14. Almond

15. Pepitas

16. Parsley

17. Chocolate

18. Tomato

19. Onion

20. Garlic

21. Anise

22. Cinnamon

23. Clove

24. Salt

25. Black pepper

26. Fennel

27. Cumin

28. Raisins

29. Heirloom chicken stock

30. Sugar

31. Indian laurel leaf (tej patta)

32. Nutmeg

Step 1: The Peppers

In a large braising pan, slice and seed the dried chiles, and warm in ample oil on low heat for 30 minutes, until fragrant and softened. At the same time, grill fresh Anaheim, Poblano and Fresno peppers. When the skin begins to blacken and blister, remove from heat and place in a plastic bag for a few minutes. When they're cool enough to handle, scrape off the blackened skin, seed and slice. Add to the [now re-hydrated] and sautéed peppers, and continue simmering.

Step 2: The Spices

In a separate pan on medium heat, bloom the spices, stirring frequently, for several minutes. Don't let them burn or brown. Once aromatic, add to the simmering chilies.

Step 3: The Nuts

Toast nuts and sesame seeds, and grind to a paste using a molcajete or food processor. I use my 11-cup Cuisinart food processor, which has completely changed the way I prep. Add the paste to the simmering chilies, and some of the reserved chili seeds.

Step 4: The Fruit

In a separate saucepan on medium heat, sauté crushed garlic and diced onions in oil until translucent. Do not let them brown or caramelize. Add chopped tomatoes and raisins. Reduce to a near paste, and combine with the simmering chilies.

Add the stock and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, until further reduced. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the mixture of chilies, nuts, spices and tomatoes to a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer back to large braising pan and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.

Step 5: Chocolate

Lastly, add dark chocolate and a little brown sugar to the mole. Stir to melt. The flavor should be deep, a little smoky and semi-sweet. Purée again in the blender, and strain through a fine mesh sieve. This will remove any traces of nuts and seeds that didn't fully purée.

The mole is ready to be enjoyed! It stores well and can be frozen, and can last up to several days in the fridge. I reserved and deep froze some of this batch, and paste from the chilies to use in the next batch... my own original madre mole.


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