October 09, 2012 by
I love mole. For me, it’s another one of those comfort foods that always make me happy. It’s also one of the great things about growing up in a state where the Mexican influence in food is so prevelant.
One of the origin myths of mole has the nuns of Convent Santa Rosa in the 16th Century anticipating a visit from the Archbishop. They were a rather impoverished convent and had nothing to serve him. In their panic, they cooked together what they could find – seeds, chocolate, day-old bread, nuts – and cooked it for hours into a sweet, thick sauce. They added the only meat they had, an old turkey, and served it to the Archbishop. He loved it.
Little did the nuns of Santa Rosa know, they invented the National Dish of Mexico. While it is mostly prepared for the holidays, it can be eaten any time of year.
All moles are very time consuming, labor intensive, and require many ingredients. Some sources state that some moles have as many as 100 ingredients, but that’s almost certainly an exaggeration (but, who knows). However, 30 ingredients isn’t unheard of, and some mole recipes can list 10 different varieties of chiles. Other ingredients can include: peanuts, almonds, fried bread, plantains, lard, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, and cloves.
It is said there are seven types of mole:
Mole Poblano – The most popular of mole sauces used today is mole poblano. It is what is considered the “national dish” of Mexico throughout the world. mole poblano originated in the state of Puebla and is made up of more than 20 different ingredients. The main ingredients are chili peppers and chocolate (which gives mole poblano its distinctive flavor and dark color). It has a slight sweetness to it.
Mole Negro (black) – While the region of Oaxaca is considered “the land of the seven moles,” its main mole is mole negro. This version of mole is darker than the traditional mole poblano, but has the same rich flavor. Mole negro is known for being the most difficult mole sauces to make, due to its large ingredient list that contains chili peppers, chocolate, onions, garlic, seeds, spices, nuts and hoja santa. Hoja santa is a plant that gives mole negro is distinctive flavor and color.
It is also generally sweeter than Mole Poblano.
Mole Verde (green) – Mole verde originated in the region of Oaxaca and gets its name from its green color. This color is achieved by using toasted pumpkin seeds, romaine lettuce, cilantro and tomatillos. Mole verde is has a milder flavor than most of the other mole sauces, and is popular in dishes that contain chicken.
Rojo (red) – Can be made from guajillo chiles, ancho chiles, pecans, tomatoes, peanuts, chocolate, garlic, onions and spices.
It has a medium-heat depending on the amount and types of chiles used.
Mole Amarillo (yellow) Made from ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, tomatillos, spices, cilantro, and the aromatic herb hoja santa.
Mole de cacahuate (peanut) – Made from peanuts and chiles.
Mole chichilo is made from pasilla chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, spices and masa harina.
Mole coloradito (red Oaxacan) – Made from ancho chiles, almonds, tomatoes, seeds, bananas and spices.
(information sources: www.wikipedia.org; www.mexonline.com; www.ehow.com)
One of these days, I’m going to make all of these.
Now, on to the recipe:
Mole Verde is a pipian-style mole from Puebla. The ingredients are all fresh, there’s no chocolate, and there are seeds (usually pumpkin) in the sauce.
3 lbs. chicken
Chicken broth or water
1/2 c. pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds, unsalted)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. Mexican oregano (I used dried)
1 1/2 tsp. Marjoram (I used dried)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 med white onion, peeled, stem end left on, cut into 1/4’s
4 lg. garlic cloves, peeled, stem end cut off
3 poblano peppers
8 tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed
1 c. packed spinach leaves
1 bunch clantro, large stem ends trimmed off
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1. Place the chicken pieces into a large pot with just enough chicken broth or water to cover. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the chicken simmer until done. Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside until cool enough to handle and shred. Discard the skin and bones (unless you want to save the bones for stock).
2. Heat a heavy skillet on high. Dry roast the pepitas and cumin seeds. Stir frequently to keep them from burning. As soon as the pepitas begin to brown and pop and the cumin seeds begin to have a fragrance pour the seeds onto a plate and let cool.
Dry roasting the pepitas and cumin seeds.
Using a coffee grinder (one that you use only for spices), grind the seeds into a powder. You’ll need to do this in batches.
The ground seeds. They smell great. Really.
3. Have a bowl covered with plastic or a large zip bag nearby. Dry roast the jalapenos and poblanos in the skillet on all sides until the skin is blackened and blistered. It’s OK if the skin isn’t blistered evenly and there’s still some green. (Alternately, don’t leave the chiles on the heat for too long or they’ll turn gray. At that point, you’ve gone too far.)
Dry roasting the chiles and garlic.
Dry roasting the poblanos.
Place the chiles in the bowl and cover or place in the bag and seal. Allow the chiles to steam to loosen their skins. Leave until cool enough to handle.
4. Continue dry roasting with the onion (cut off the stem end after you’ve roasted the onion), garlic, and tomatillos. Again, you just want to have some black spots. Make sure you don’t overcook the tomatillos. You don’t want them to come apart in the skillet.
Roasting the onion.
Roasting the tomatillos.
5. Remove the chiles from the bag or bowl and peel off as much of the charred skin as you can.
The peeled chiles. Ready for seeding.
Remove the stems and seeds from the poblanos and the stems from the jalapenos. Depending on how mild or spicy you would like the mole, keep or remove as many of the seeds and membranes from the jalapenos as you like.
5. Add the oregano, marjoram, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, jalapenos, spinach, cilantro, and parsley to 4 cups of the chicken broth. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly before pureeing.
The ingredients cooking away.
7. Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so already, shred the chicken. Discard the skin. Discard or save the bones for stock.
8. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the ground pepitas and cumin. Add 1/2 cup of the stock and make a paste. Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.
9. In a food processor or blender in batches, or with a stick blender in the pot, puree the broth and vegetables until as smooth as you prefer. Place the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat and add the paste into the mole mixture. Mix well. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. The mole will thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.
10. Add the chicken back into the mole and cook another 5 minutes to heat the chicken through. Serve with rice and tortillas.
Note: I somehow lost some of the photos I took while I was making this dish. However, you can see the finished mole here: http://weareaustin.com/news/features/morning/stories/vid_8.shtml
Yes. I did a TV spot. And I was very nervous.
If you would like to see even more mole recipes and even some cajeta cheesecake, I’ll be teaching this class on Friday, October 19 at Central Market North Lamar.