Tuesday, February 15, 2011

M-ole, M-ole, M-ole, M-ole, Feeling Hot, Hot Hot

Sure, we all love chocolate in its traditional forms, when it is usually presented as a sweet.  But no discussion of chocolate would be complete without a mention of mole sauce, which is generally considered the national dish of Mexico.

The history of the dish is disputed.  Some claim it was 'necessity is the mother of invention', in which 16th C. Mexican nuns, whose cupboard was bare, frantically prepared a  meal for a visiting archbishop with the ingredients on hand.  They ground various spices, chilis and chocolate, simmered the mixture for hours, killed the only animal on hand, which happened to be a turkey and roasted the bird with the makeshift sauce.  The bish loved it and mole was born.

Another account credits the Aztecs with inventing the dish.  Believing that the European conquistadores were divine apparitions, they served them a feast laden with chocolate, which was then considered sacred.  Others historians disagree, claiming that this would be the Christian equivalent of making veal marsala with sacramental wine.

Whatever the heritage,  mole is here to stay.   Candidly, people tend to love it or hate it.  But we think the haters simply haven't had good mole.  When done properly, it rivals the most complex and sophisticated of dishes; think of a Thai or Indian curry with deep layers of flavor, or a perfectly executed French Bordelaise.  We suggest sampling it at 12th St Cantina; their chicken mole is muy bueno.   Alternatively, the Cantina sells prepared mole for the time-strapped or novice cooks among us.     If you are inclined to make your own, here's an easy version:

Easy Mole Sauce (makes enough to serve 4-6)
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons vegetables oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1-pound can tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a large heavy skillet sauté the onion in the oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until it is golden brown. In a mortar with a pestle (or spice grinder) crush the coriander seeds and the aniseed, stir them into the onion mixture with the chili powder, the sugar, the cinnamon, and the cloves, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cocoa powder, the peanut butter, 2 cups of the broth, the tomatoes, the raisins, the garlic paste, and salt to taste and simmer the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.    In a blender or food processor purée the sauce in batches, adding the remaining broth as necessary to thin it to the desired consistency.   Coat skilled with thin film of oil, and heat.  Add chicken or fish and sear quickly to seal in juices.  Transfer the sauce to the skillet, cover and simmer the mixture on low,  15 minutes for fish, 30 for chicken. Serve  over rice if desired, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Forgive us, but we couldn't help ourselves....

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