I love spending hours cooking in my kitchen, and so nothing could be more self-fulfilling than taking the best part of the day to cook one of those long time-consuming dishes nobody seems to prepare anymore. For once, instead of a tried and tested Italian classic, I decided to give Mole Poblano, one of Mexico's most notorious dishes a try. About a year ago I had my first taste of mole. It was great, but not enough I wanted to try and make it from scratch myself.
As it often is, laziness got in the way and so I procrastinated until the theme of the new eGullet cook-off was announced. If you haven't yet give those cook-offs a look; IMO a great idea to get a group of people to cook a dish virtually together. (Past themes included classics like Pizza, Fried Chicken and Gumbo.) Guess what the new theme was? Mole clearly! Time to use those tips for mexican chilies sources and get working. Remembering Petra's source tip I was the proud owner of a few bags of Mulatos, Anchos and Pasilla chilies in matter of days (from bottom left corner, clockwise).
I took some time deciding which recipe to use to make my mole Pueblano. I settled for this one from Epicurious mainly because it was the most complex, with almost 30 different ingredients (alone five kinds of nuts and seeds), and the most time consuming one. I'm always in for a challenge. Especially having waited so long to try a dish.
The cooking did not begin in the best way possible. Just a tip in case you want to have a go at this: always screw the lid of your blender REAL tight when you make the chili pure for the sauce. Chili splattered t-shirts only look cool in horror movies and cleaning chili puree from your ceiling is no fun. Actually it is a lot of fun for those looking: Daniela is still laughing about it. Lucky for me, the rest of the cooking went on glitch-less apart the occasional splattering and bubbling of the sauce.
Instead of the classic turkey, we made our mole with chicken and served rice, guacamole and beans on the side. During our dinner with two friends we kept wondering about the recipe. Who thought of these ingredients first? How did they come together? Mole is a dish incredibly far from our modern cuisine full of distinct tastes interacting with each other. It's a dish where bliss comes from what you could even call a hodgepodge, and yet one that works great. Which just goes to show that the latest culinary trends should not be taken as "the only truth".
The fascinating thing about mole is how the flavor develops at each stage. The chili puree tastes slightly bitter with the aroma of the best paprika you've ever had, with chocolate and light smoky overtones. Yet, as soon as you add the nuts, the whole changes becoming earthier. The fruit adds a fresh and sweet note; the spices a complex of aromas that blends with the rest of the ingredients. Far from being a dominating taste, the final addition of Mexican chocolate only discretely ads a final note that rounds the taste of the sauce in a perfect way. The mole sauce was great, far from the overly chocolate tasting stuff in jars. Now, if I only could taste the real Mexican stuff...