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Mole Poblano

Mole Poblano

Yields: 3 quarts

Time: 4-6 hours

Stage 1: Prepare spice powder

To prepare the chile peppers, step them and shake the seeds into a small bowl. Tear the peppers into pieces and set aside.

12 dried mulato chiles (poblano)

12 dried guajillo chiles

12 dried ancho or pasilla (chile negro) chiles

2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped

Toast in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown (~2min). Once toasted, transfer to a mortar or spice grinder.

4 T reserved chile seeds

4 T sesame seeds

Add to the cast iron skillet and toast until fragrant (~1min). Once toasted, add to the toasted seeds.

1 t whole aniseed (or 2 star anise)

1 t black peppercorns

2 t cumin seed

1 t fennel seed

1/2 t whole cloves

2 t coriander seed

5 allspice berries

Add to the toasted nut and spice mixture, grind into a find powder, and transfer to a large bowl.

1 t dried thyme

1/2 t dried marjoram

1 t dried Mexican oregano

3 dried bay leaves, crumbled

1 (1 1/2-inch) stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

1/4 fresh whole nutmeg, grated on a microplane

Stage 2: Prepare the Chile Purée

Heat 2 cups peanut oil or lard in a medium skillet to 350°F over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the dried chiles until slightly darkened, about 20-45 seconds per batch. Transfer chiles to a plate lined with paper towels as each batch is finished.

When the frying is done, remove the skillet from the heat, but do not discard the oil. Transfer chiles to a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the peppers steep for 30 minutes. 

Then strain the chiles and reserve the soaking liquid.

Prepare a large bowl and fine mesh strainer. Working in 3 batches, place into a blender and purée until as smooth as possible. Strain each batch, using a rubber spatula to push through as much mixture as possible.

1/3 of soaked chiles

1/3 cup soaking liquid

1/4 cup chicken stock 

Stage 3: Fry Ingredients

Return skillet with oil to 350°F over medium-high heat. One at a time, fry each ingredient and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

1/2 cup skin-on almonds, fried for ~1 minute

1/2 cup raw shelled peanuts, fried for ~45 seconds

1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), fried for ~20 seconds

1/3 cup raisins, fried for ~15 seconds

2 tortillas, preferably stale, fried ~1 minute per side, then broken into small pieces

Transfer fried ingredients to the bowl with the spice mixture.

Stage 4: Prepare Aromatic Base

Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and strain the oil from the skillet. Place 2 T strained oil into an empty skillet (you can use the same one you used to toast spices, if sufficiently large). Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering.

Add and cook until browned (~10min), stirring occasionally:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

Stir in and cook until fragrant (~1 min):

10 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 10 teaspoons)

Transfer onions and garlic to bowl with spice mixture, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Return the skillet to medium-high heat until oil is shimmering.

Add and cook until softened (~10min), stirring occasionally:

2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered

1 large tomato, quartered (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)

Transfer tomatoes and tomatillos to a bowl with spice mixture.

Stage 5: Blend Spice Mixture and Aromatics

Add to the spice mixture bowl:

2.5 cups chicken stock

Working in two batches, purée spice mixture in blender until as smooth as possible. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain spice mixture, using a rubber spatula to push through as much spice mixture as possible. Discard solids and set spice mixture aside.

Step 6: Cook the Sauce

In a large dutch oven or pot, heat 3 tablespoons of reserved strained oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in chile purée and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened to consistency of tomato paste (~10 minutes). Use a splatter screen so the sauce doesn’t make a mess.

Stir in spice mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. 

Stir in 4 cups chicken stock and 1 cup finely chopped Mexican chocolate. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Season mole with salt (and optionally sugar) to taste. 

Remove from heat, use immediately or transfer to airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a month. The sauce freezes well.

Notes

  • The chocolate in this recipe will yield a complex sauce that is not identified as chocolate-y. You may add more chocolate to suit your preferences.

  • Less oil works for a shallow fry

  • If the components are too thick to pass through your strainer, try a food mill

  • The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, thin it with a little broth.

  • A blender works better than a food processor

    • Don’t purée more than half a blender full at a time.

    • Don’t add more liquid than is necessary to keep the mixture moving through the blades; if it’s too thin, the entire mixture won’t be drawn through the blades.

    • Stir the ingredients, blend on low until everything is uniformly chopped, and then blend on high until the purée is smooth when rubbed between your fingers.

    • If the sauce looks coarse or gritty after simmering, re-blend it until smooth.

  • Always strain the mixture

  • Spread the mole making out over three days for maximum flavor (and ease)

    • Before starting mole: make stock, if there is none on hand

    • Day 1 - Prepare ingredients and make the purées

    • Day 2 - sear the purée and combine to complete the sauce

    • Day 3 - cook the meat in the sauce

Pairings

Serve mole over:

  • Turkey (traditional)

  • Chicken

  • Pork

  • Lamb

Leftover mole sauce is excellent for making enchiladas, tamales, brunch eggs, or using as a condiment for rice, eggs, and other foods.

You can garnish mole dishes with:

  • toasted sesame seeds

  • chopped mint

  • chopped cilantro

  • chopped scallions

Variations

Chiles that work well in mole (use 6-12 of each):

  • chipotle meco

  • mulato (poblano)

    • Technically, it distinguishes mole poblano from most other moles

  • ancho

  • pasila (chile negro)

  • chipotle

  • New Mexico

  • California

Easy-to-find pepper mix:

  • 12 dried ancho-pasilla chiles

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles

  • 6 dried california chiles

  • 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped

Kenji's pepper mix:

  • 12 dried ancho chiles

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles

  • 6 dried pasilla chiles (also called chile negro)

Other ingredients to try:

  • 1/4 cup Walnuts - toasted

  • 1/4 cup Pecans - toasted

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts - toasted

  • 1/2 small ripe (brown or black) plantain, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

    • Fry the plantain slices, turning over once, until golden, about 3 minutes.

  • 2 avocado leaves, dried

  • Shallots (instead of onions)

Variants for ingredient preparation:

  • You can toast the ingredients instead of frying

  • Tomato and Tomatillo

    • Broil or roast at 500F in an oven.

    • Core the tomato and cut a small “X” through the skin on the opposite end. Roast the tomato, cored side up, and tomatillos on a foil-lined pan, turning the tomatillos over once halfway through, until their tops and bottoms have blackened and they are a khaki-green color and cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes

    • The tomato (without turning) should be cooked until its top is blackened and it’s cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes total. 

    • Slip the skin off the tomato.

  • Using tongs, hold the tortilla directly over a burner set to medium, turning it over frequently, until it’s dark, golden brown, and some burned spots appear on both sides. Crumble it into the soaking fried chiles.

 
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Long live the weeds!

Long live the weeds!