Yesterday it was 8 years ago that I started blogging. When I started I thought blogging would be about me sharing stuff with the world, but now I know that what I am getting back from others is just as important. Through blogging I have met (in real life or ‘only’ on-line) many great people who have inspired me to try new cuisines and ingredients that I probably would not have tried otherwise. Thanks to Richard and Elia McGary of REMCooks.com I now love cooking with chilli peppers and I prepare Mexican food and Tex-Mex on a regular basis. (To find out how that happened, read this blog from 2013.) This made me decide to prepare a Mexican tasting menu for this autumn’s series of wine pairing dinners that I host at home for friends. Elia helped me to put together a menu, and one of the dishes she proposed was a Mole.
Mole really just means “sauce” in Mexico (like in guacamole; āhuacamolli = āhuacatl (avocado) + molli (sauce)). The most famous is Mole Poblano, from the kitchen of the Convent of Santa Rosa, in Puebla. It is probably so famous because it contains chocolate and as you can see in the photo it looks like a chocolate sauce. In fact chile peppers and nuts are the main ingredients and it does not taste at all like the kind of chocolate sauce that is used in a Dame Blanche, but it does smell of chocolate.
The most difficult part about Mole Poblano is that it uses a lot of ingredients; otherwise the process is quite straightforward if you own a good blender. Mole Poblano is most often served over chicken, so that is what I did. Of course I could not resist to cook the chicken sous vide. The depth of flavor of the mole is amazing.
There are four different kinds of dried chile peppers in Mole Poblano:
- Mulato chiles: Poblano chillies that have matured until they are red and then dried
- Ancho chiles: Poblano chillies that are dried when they are still green
- Pasilla negra chiles
- Chipotle chiles: Dried and smoked jalapeños
I used Pati Jinich’s and Irene’s recipes as a basis. Most recipes for mole tell you to thicken the sauce with bread or corn tortillas. To me it does not make sense to first make corn tortillas and then grind them up as thickener in a sauce. So I used instant masa flour (that is used to make corn tortillas) to thicken the mole directly.
At the wine dinner I served Mexican rice (recipe to follow) and refried beans on the side.
Ingredients for the Mole Poblano
Makes about 1 litre (4 cups)
4 mulato chiles
3 ancho chiles
2 pasilla negra chiles
2 chipotle chiles
4 Tbsp lard or vegetable oil
125 grams (1/2 large) onion, chopped
125 grams (1/2 cup) chopped tomatoes, or from a can
60 grams (1/4 cup) chopped tomatillos (subsitute with additional tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp brown almonds, toasted
1 1/2 Tbsp peanuts, toasted
1/2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
reserved seeds from the chiles, toasted
1 1/2 Tbsp raisins
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground coriander seed
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50 grams (1.8 oz) 99% chocolate and 50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar, or 100 grams (3.5 oz) dark chocolate
600 ml (2 1/2 cups) chicken stock
salt to taste
Instructions for the Mole Poblano
Remove the stems from the chiles and discard. Take out the seeds of the chiles and reserve.
Toast the chile seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts in the oven at 180C/350F. All but the sesame seeds require 10 minutes, the sesame seeds more like 20 minutes.
Heat 4 tablespoons of lard or vegetable oil in a large casserole. Fry the chiles in the oil in batches over medium heat.
Lift the chiles out of the oil with a slotted spoon before they burn, and set aside on a plate.
After you’ve fried all of the chiles, add the onion to the same fat.
Stir over medium heat until the onions are golden.
Then add the garlic and stir for a minute longer.
Add the toasted nuts and seeds…
…and chile seeds, and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the spices and herbs.
Stir to mix.
Add the tomato (and tomatillo, if using).
Stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock…
…and chocolate and sugar…
…and reserved chiles. Stir to mix, making sure that the chiles are barely covered with moisture.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer over low heat until the chiles have softened, 15 to 30 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
Use a strong blender to blend the sauce until smooth. (Be careful while blending a hot sauce. It is safer to allow the sauce to cool first.)
If you have a strong blender (like a Vitamix), the sauce will become nice and smooth. The mole can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen.
Ingredients for Chicken Mole
boneless and skinless chicken thighs
toasted sesame seeds
instant corn tortilla flour (masa/maseca)
Instructions for Chicken Mole Sous-Vide
Season the chicken with salt.
Mix the chicken with the mole.
Vacuum seal the chicken with the mole.
If you do not own a chamber vacuum sealer, you could use frozen mole and vacuum seal it with the chicken.
Cook the chicken with the mole sous-vide for at least 2 hours at 62C/144F for slightly pink, or 65F/149F if you prefer it more white.
Take the chicken out of the bag…
…but put most of the mole from the bag into a saucepan.
Add instant masa to the cold chicken stock…
…and whisk to mix.
Add this mixture to the saucepan with the mole.
Bring to a boil while whisking…
…until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt (and perhaps some brown sugar).
Turn off the heat and return the chicken to the sauce to warm through.
Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
Some Amarone della Valpolicella smells of chocolate, and if the Amarone has smooth tannins it will be great with this dish. (If the Amarone has harsh tannins, it will clash.) A good alternative is a Zinfandel from California or a Primitivo from Puglia (which are both made from the same grape variety).
Stuffed calamari braised in tomato sauce is a great Italian dish that can be enjoyed all along the coast of Italy with only minor regional variations.