the Mole that Almost Won

Thursday, October 27, 2005

moleThe recent dark chocolate themed SHF event got my culinary head brainstorming about new adventurous ways to use chocolate. I posed the question of how to break out of my chocolate box to Sweets and he quickly gave me this answer: Mole. I don’t think he fully realized the magnatude of this challenge! In my mind mole is one of those witch’s caldron foods… a whole lot of mysterious things go in and you get a completely different set of flavors out!

I quitely took in the mole challenge and went sleuthing online to look at recipes, since I don’t have a Latino grandmother. I was excited to find right off the bat, that Dagoba chocolates has a mole recipe on their website that uses their Eclipse 87% chocolate. I printed out the recipe and set Sweets to the local Latino market to buy chiles and tomatillas. Thirty minutes into the trip I get a phone call asking about chile substitutions. It turns out we stumpted our local experts, drats! No chihuacle or mulatto chiles.

Sweets came home quickly and unloaded his bounty from the motorcycle. It was then I began to have my first suspicions about the recipe I had chosen. He had bags and bags and bags of chiles! The recipe called for 1 lb of dried cascabels, and an additional lb of other chiles. It was only at this moment did I realize the volume of one pound of dried chiles. And aren’t the short round cascabels hot? Sweets had fun retelling his adventures in asking the store for chile help. They thought he was from a restaurant (because of his request for a lb of cascabels!), and he was gleaming in white boy cred at getting cool ingredients. He gathered all the best things- 2 lbs of chiles, a tub of fresh lard, tomatillas, and a bonus present for me: a 5 pound bag of fresh masa dough! I think he even impressed the cashiers with this catch.

Going back to the Dagoba recipe I found more “issues”. The list of ingredients didn’t match what was mentioned in the cooking instructions. I quickly emailed Dagoba who apologized and set me a corrected version (which they still haven’t put up on their website). But still that huge pile of chiles sitting on my kitchen table taunted me. Oddly, it didn’t seem to be a typo in the recipe.

I set into the prep of deseeding the chiles when I broke down and chickened out. This Dagoba Mole recipe must be an accident, I thought as I calculated how long simply deseeding 2 pounds of dried chiles would take. Oh wait… I got it: A chocolate competitor, a mole (heh), snuck into the Dagoba company and gave them this bogus mole recipe to kill off their customers. The thoughts in my head won out, and I put the chiles down. Sure, you can be killed by chiles.

A week goes by, my pile of chiles taunting me the whole time, and I notice a call for prune entries on David Lebovitz’s website. I could work the mole into this! If I found a recipe that didn’t want to kill me that is. Fortunately I found one at epicurious’s website that sounded really similar to the Dagoba recipe, except that it called for way less chiles (18 rather than 2 lbs), less chocolate (6 oz rather than one lb) but the same amount of spices.

I substituted prunes instead of the called for raisins, and used a pressure cooker and way less stock and no thickeners. I can practically hear the grandmothers turning in their graves at this silly girl who makes mole in less than a night. The original recipes suggest a timeline of several days to account for ingredient aquiring and prep. Because we had all the ingredients on hand, I was able to make this sauce all in one night, and let it age for a day before eating it.

The result is dark, slightly spicy, chocolately, nutty, roasted and sweet! As we speak, I am baking up a pan of mole based Chilaqueas made with the fresh masa dough.

Now what to do with all those leftover chiles?

the Mole that Almost Won

adapted from PUEBLA-STYLE FIESTA TURKEY IN MOLE SAUCE , found at epicurious

moleRemove the seeds, membranes and stems from:

  • 6 dried cascabels
  • 6 dried pasilla chiles
  • 5 dried ancho chile

If you wear contacts, like to pick your nose, or are around babies and other small dependent things, wear gloves for this process (unless you like that numbing chile oil tingle, you kinky person you).

Tear the chiles into pieces and quickly fry in 1/2 cup of hot lard. Fry the chiles briefly, only enough to blister the skin (20-30 seconds). Strain each batch into a pressure cooker and cover the chiles with enough stock to cover. Cook in the pressure cooker for 15-20 minutes until the chiles are soft. Pour the stock and chiles into a blender and puree until smooth. Add enough stock to bring the volume to 4 cups. Strain this chile puree discarding the chile strands left behind.

In another large pan (not the pressure cooker) with 1/2 cup of hot smoking lard, cook the chile puree until thick and leaves a pan revealing trail when a spoon is dragged through. Remove from the heat to wait for the additonal ingredients.

Either in an oven or in a dry skillet separately toast till golden:

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted roasted peanuts (or peanut butter)
  • 1/4 cup shelled pepitas
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Set aside and allow to cool.

In the pressure cooker saute over medium heat til the onions are translucent:

  • one large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound of tomatillas, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped

Add to the onions and tomatillas:

  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • one 28 oz can of roasted tomatos
  • 3/4 cup of chopped and pitted prunes
  • one cup of stock

Lid up and cook in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. When done, allow to cool slightly, and process in a blender with the toasted seeds and nuts that have been cooling. Add the pureed nut-tomato mixture to the chile mixture and bring to a gentle simmer.

In a dry skillet, toast separately:

  • 5 whole cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 5 whole allspice berries (or 1/2 tsp ground)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Grind the cooled whole spices in a coffee grinder, and add to the simmering mixture. Also add:

  • 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of piloncillo or brown sugar

Stir and simmer for 1/2 hour or more to allow the flavors to develop.
If your sauce is rather thick and paste like, thin out with the additon of stock.
If your sauce is too thin, thicken by blending with tortilla chips (a handful at a time) or stale bread (a slice at a time).



posted October 28th, 2005 at 3:12 am

I found the Dagoba recipe and my eyes almost popped out of my head at the mention of all those chilies… but did you see that it feeds 20 people? I also noticed that it’s a recipe for Oaxacan black mole, which Rick Bayless claims to be the most complex and difficult of all, with many of the essential chile components being unavailable outside Oaxaca. So just as well you didn’t attempt it! Yours looks fantastic – very inspired addition of prunes, I’ll have to try it!

  • Oh, good reminder about servings- the batch I made probably could feed just as many. I think it largely depends on how thick/thin you make it. The next day, it had set up into a thick paste. I’ve been scooping it out by 1/3 cup and thinning in down with water (since this monster of a recipe ate up all my stock! Come on pay-day!).

    I seriously contemplated that Oaxacan Recipe. I even tried to find others online to double check the chile quantities. Oddly, the others I found via Google, all had the same typos! Hrmmm. One other thought I had is that the Dagoba recipe doesn’t specify whether they are talking about fresh chiles vs dried ones. I could definiately understand the 1 lb measurement with that switch-er-ooo.

    The Oaxacan Black Mole is made black by a lengthier fry of the chiles in the first step. Supposedly the chiles aren’t made bitter due to the soaking and softening step. It was fun playing with the chile colors durin this. When dried they all look black. The fried that same black-red color, yet when I strained them after soaking, their “fresh” colors came back! I had bits of tomato red and dark green chile bits to strain out with no hint of black at all.


posted October 28th, 2005 at 12:45 pm

I must admit that I am incredibly impressed. I’ve wanted to make mole for so long, but am totally paralised by the time, complexity and sheer number of ingedients. Really fantastic job, Mcauliflower!

  • Thanks Nic. Really, its the recipe and not me ;) I do recommend gathering everything on one day and then approaching the making on another day. The difficult part of this recipe is that everything wants to be toasted/cooked and then pureed in the blender. This can make for interesting pan juggling.


- Nic
posted October 30th, 2005 at 2:05 pm

Wow! I am quite impressed at this effort AND the fact that you pulled it off with a little twist at the end. I, too, know what it’s like to have chiles taunting you, but I chickened out. I had considered mole for SHF 13 too, and ended up going traditional dessert-y. I’m glad you tried the mole and that I found your entry!

- LisaSD
posted October 31st, 2005 at 8:16 pm

My friend Amy sent me your link on mole. I had fun reading it, and comparing notes! She and I made mole together in January, and it was quite a task. We chose a Rick Bayless recipe. I can’t imagine making it by myself, and in one night no less! Our adventure is described here: Mole Poblano

  • You know, I think I have that Fine Cooking magazine! I still haven’t baked much with my sauce though, I think the chiles have transfered their taunting power to the mole itself. I enjoyed reading your mole posting.


- Sheri
posted November 1st, 2005 at 11:45 am

I’ve always been a bit afraid of Mole as it is the one and only dish that my mother tried to make that ended up completely inedible. She was not a gourmet cook but she was generally pretty solid at what she tried. After that one experiment, we were off of mole for good. Perhaps its time to revisit the issue and confront the ghosts of mole’s past.

  • You know where to find me! And really, I have soooo much mole. We should bake some chicken in it and have a margarita and mole night to toast Adelaide (Judah’s Mom). And maybe some drinkable fudge? :)


- Judah
posted November 4th, 2005 at 12:42 pm

I love Mole! And I’ve been long daunted by it. It’s definitely been one of my food nemesises.

I made a mole base (Oaxacan, I think) back in March from a recipe that was designed to ultimately feed like 50. I made it more managable by strategically halving most of the ingredients ( I’ll never reduce the amount of garlic a recipe calls for).

I also made a green curry paste from scratch that week. Must’ve been a phase!

And I stored the unused mole base in my freezer with reasonable success. But I’d suggest not keeping it much longer than 3 months in a self-defrosting freezer…

One thing I found was that the dried thyme and oregano I used were unexpectedly potent, to the overall detriment of the sauce I ultimately made. Thus, I haven’t revisited it since.

Having read about your experiences, I’m inspired to try again. But I’m inclined to use the Dagoba Oaxacan chocolate bars. Yes, I am that kinky.

Also, I was lucky enough to find all the varieties of dried peppers the recipe called for (and loads more) at an excellent local produce market here in Portland, called Big City Produce. The peppers I bought came from Julia’s Spices, Inc. based in El Monte, CA.

- DaveO
posted November 5th, 2005 at 4:44 pm

Ok, Jocie, remind me to give you the BEST Mole recipe ever. It’s for Chicken Mole and I got it from Maria’s Mom the last time I saw her in Del Rio. Maria translated and I wrote. Her mom had ‘left overs’ available when we got home from the airport. …served with steamed corn tortillas, YUM!

- MoM
posted April 7th, 2008 at 10:05 pm

THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS RECIPE!!! I used this in one of my collage food classes mid-terms & i one first place! This is the most traditionally BEST recipe (not the easiest) i have EVER tasted but you have to make sure that after you make it, you let it sit in a refrigerate over night… it makes it taste alot better. And if you dont add the chocolate then it would make SUPER enchilada sauce or go with some chx or beef

The chilies really make this recipy
do not substitute!

- Kat

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