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Musings of a Travel Alchemist

Passport & Plate - Salsa Mole Negro Tradicional

Mexico | Monday, 10 March 2014 | 5 photos


INGREDIENTS:
6 dried chilhuacles chilies, 6 dried mulato chilies, 6 dried pasilla chilies, 3 dried chipotle meco chilies, 1 onion, sliced, 1 head of garlic, peeled, cloves separated, 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 plátano macho (can substitute a large banana), peeled and sliced, 3 slices of “pan de yema” (or substitute thick slices of soft, white bread), 1 tablespoon peanuts, 1 tablespoon walnuts, 20 almonds, 4 tablespoons of raisins, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 2 tablespoons of oregano, 10 whole black peppercorns, 10 cloves, ½ tablespoon of cinnamon, 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds, 10 Roma tomatoes, 5 tomatillos, 125 grams dark chocolate, 8 cups of chicken stock, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt
Produces 10-12 servings of mole sauce. If you have questions on any of the ingredients, ask your nearest Mexican grandmother! ...or visit your local Mexican grocery store.

HOW TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE: Slice all the chilies and remove all seeds and veins. Take care not to burn yourself with the seeds. Wash and soak chillies in hot water for 10 minutes. Fry chilies, onion, and garlic in a dry pan (no oil – this is called asado). Fry each of the following ingredients SEPARATELY with a tablespoon of oil: plátano macho (large banana), slices of bread, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts. Place all these ingredients in a bowl along with the raisins, thyme, oregano, black peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry the sesame seeds dry (asado) with salt (to prevent them from popping out of the pan) until brown. Add to the bowl of ingredients. Fry the tomatoes and tomatillos separately for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then purée in a food processor and set aside. Blend all the other ingredients that you put in the bowl in a food processor to form a paste. Place this paste in a large pot and fry for 15 minutes. Add the tomato puree, chocolate, 2 cups of chicken stock, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook for 1 hour, stirring constantly to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pot. You may need to add more chicken stock. Add chocolate, sugar, and salt every 20 minutes as needed.

Traditionally, you cook this for 8 hours, however, unless you have a lot of helpers and a lot of time, one hour will do just fine. The result will be a large pot of incredible flavor, sufficient to provide a sauce for 10 – 12 servings. Serve generously over chicken (breast, thighs, legs) or pork with rice. ¡Buen provecho!

THE STORY BEHIND THIS RECIPE:
Last fall I found myself wandering the streets of Mexico’s culinary capital, blissfully entangled with my fiancé, Noel - a native Aztec healer. It was there in the chaotic, grimy market place of Oaxaca that I had my first taste of mole negro. In that moment, the essence of the Oaxacan spirit manifested on my palate: rich, complex, brimming with history, and roiling with revelry. If there is one spot in Mexico renown for vibrant festivals that blend native and European heritage, it’s Oaxaca. And, without a doubt, mole negro is the culinary icon of this World Heritage City. There’s a celebration every day on the streets of Oaxaca – of life, love, marriage, death, and everything in between. Mole speaks to it all.

It was Vicky Hernandez – a Oaxacan native and my instructor in Pre-Hispanic cooking – who taught me to make mole negro. As she walked me through the subtleties of creating an authentic sauce, she infused the dish with the anecdotal wisdom of her people.

Vicky invited us to try her mother’s mole at a celebration of Señor del Rayo in her village the following weekend. Noel explained that Señor del Rayo was a Catholicized version of the native celebration of Tlaloc, the Aztec lord of rain. Once the sermon had finished and we’d all paid our respects to the Virgin de Guadalupe (or Tonantzin to the Aztecs), solemnity came to a screeching halt. The revelry began. Twelve-year old boys ran back and forth serving beers to the thirsty crowd, while a bottle of mezcal was passed around. A monstrous vat of mole simmered at the back of the house. The band struck up and we swung our hips to salsa and cumbia alongside our hosts. Young girls and diminutive, straight-faced grandmothers followed me in a limbo line, along with all but the most timid of villagers.

With mole in my belly and mezcal whispering on my lips, writhing to modern rhythms for the sake of an Aztec-cum-Christian deity, I felt, for a moment, every bit a Oaxaqueña.

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