Mole is one of the most enigmatic and interesting foods on earth. In Mexico , its preparation and final result depends on the diversity of ingredients used from city to city, and perhaps most importantly, on the personal preferences of the cooks. It is a very personal, unique dish that with the help of your imagination and personal touch, will reach new dimensions in your kitchen.
2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and membranes removed
2 dried mulato or pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, and membranes removed
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (canned), seeded
4 cups chicken or beef broth, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large ripe dark-skinned plantain, peeled and thickly sliced
½ medium onion, chopped
8 oz. (3-4) ripe plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup dry-roasted, unsalted cashews
¼ cup whole almonds
¼ cup raisins
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts
1 1-inch slice from a firm French bread or Mexican bolillo, torn into pieces
½ teaspoon Mexican canela (cinnamon), ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup dry sherry ( jerez )
4 oz. Mexican chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (depending on how salty the broth is)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat an ungreased medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast all the dried chiles until they begin to change color (about 15 seconds each side). Be careful not to burn them, as that will add a bitter taste to the mole. Using tongs, transfer chiles to a large pot and add 2 cups of chicken or beef broth, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Strain liquid and reserve. Chop chiles.
Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the ripe plantain pieces and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to remove the excess of oil. Add the onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes and fry, stirring regularly until they are well browned, no more than 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor along with the cooked plantains, cashews, almonds, raisins, sesame seeds, peanuts, bread, drained chipotles and other chiles, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and dried oregano. Add 2 cups of the broth (you could use the reserved liquid from rehydrating the chiles) and blend until smooth. Remember to stir and scrape down the sides of mixture, adding extra broth if needed to keep everything moving and ensure a smooth mixture. Press the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the saucepan over high heat. When you see smoke rising from the saucepan, add the chile mixture all at once. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, then add the chocolate, dry sherry and reserved 2 cups of chicken or beef broth to the mole. Simmer over low heat, partially covering the pot, for 40 minutes, stirring regularly to integrate all the flavors. You can thin the molé with additional broth to keep it the consistency of a creamy soup. Adjust seasonings and serve warm with roasted chicken, cashews, and steamed rice.
[Chef’s Note: This is a very time consuming dish to make, but the results are definitely worth the effort…right up to the last bite. Start three days ahead. Although traditionally in Mexico the molé is served with turkey, the chosen protein is really not that important because the star is the molé itself. Serve it with any kind of meat: chicken, turkey, beef, pork, shrimp, or just plain with steamed white rice. This mole will keep well in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to a month. If you choose to freeze the leftover mole, thaw it in the refrigerator and then heat in a saucepan or microwave oven, adding some chicken broth if needed.]
Recipe and photo by Melissa DeLeon Douglass