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Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."

Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe

Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe

Sweet and Smoky Molé Recipe

Molé (pronounced moh-lay) has increased in exposure and popularity all over the world thanks to the culinary genius of chefs such as Rick Bayless, the "King of Mexican cuisine." But what is molé?

Basically, molé is a Mexican sauce with a complex flavor that makes a great complement to both meat and vegetarian dishes. Similar to BBQ sauce, it can be brushed onto grilled beef, pork, or poultry. Although dried chiles are a main ingredient, this sauce is not necessarily spicy. Rather it is rich, silky, and slighty sweet with nuances of smoke, fruit, and chocolate.

In contemporary Mexico, recipes abound for black, red, yellow, green, almond, and pepian molé. Ingredients are toasted, ground, and mixed for special occasions. The process is elaborate and can take days. The Oaxaca region is famous for the coveted molé negro, or black molé. Rick Bayless, whose version of this sauce contributed to his title of Top Chef Master, made his Oaxacan black molé for one of Obama's White House state dinners. His sauce had upwards of 20 ingredients and took three days to prepare.

For home cooks short on time, simpler versions can produce equally delicious results. See the Scoville chart when choosing dried chiles for your sauce. Because of availability, I use Peruvian "marisol" chiles and "colorado" chiles for my red molé and throw in a chipotle for extra smokiness. Please see "tips" section for suggested chile combinations.

Don't trust "quick" recipes which require only half an hour of cooking time. This sauce must be simmered for at least two hours, until thick and pungent. But beware: it is extremely addictive!

Dried Chiles

Chile Pepper VarietyAlternate NamesScoville ScoreDescription

chilcostle

3500-8000

narrow, long and dark/spicy flavor

aji marisol

aji amarillo, Peruvian guajillo, marisol chile

3500-8000

orange and wrinkled/fruity, grassy flavor

chipotle

smoked jalapeno

3500-8000

reddish-brown to brown/smoky flavor

guajillo

3500-8000

smooth, shiny and reddish-brown/bright, fruity earthy flavor

New Mexico

New Mexico red chile

3500-8000

smooth, shiny and red/crisp, earthy flavor

California chile

dried Anaheim

500-1500

smooth, shiny, red/crisp, mild flavor

mulato

mulatto chile

1000-3500

dark and wrinkly/sweet, smoky flavor

ancho

dried Poblano

1000-3500

dark and wrinkly/sweet, raisin-like flavor

aji colorado

aji panca, colorado chile

1000-3500

smooth, shiny, reddish-brown/smoky, berry flavor

costeño amarillo

1000-3500

shiny and amber/crisp, citrus flavor

chilhuacle negro

1000-3500

shiny, dark and fat/deep, intense and fruity flavor

cascabel

rattle chile, bola chile

1000-3500

small and round with noisy seeds/intense nutty flavor

pasilla

chile negro, pasilla negro, dried chilaca

1000-3500

long, black and wrinkled/grapey, earthy flavor

Tips

  • Choose fragrant, flexible dried chiles. See Scoville chart for help in choosing chiles by flavor and/or heat.
  • If you'd like a dish similar to Rick Bayless's sauce, use 6 mulato chiles, 3 chihualces, 3 pasilla and 1 chipotle chile. If you can't find chihualces chiles, a very respectable substitute would be 7 mulato chiles, 5 pasilla chiles and 3 guajillo chiles.
  • For red molé, choose 6 mulato chiles, 3 ancho chiles and 5 pasilla chiles.
  • If Mexican chocolate isn't available, choose another good quality chocolate. If using Ghiradelli or Lindt, you'll need 3 squares for my recipe.
  • Don't use more than one chipotle unless you like it spicy.
  • Carefully watch chiles while toasting them. Burnt chiles make bitter sauce.
  • Before simmering, try your sauce. The flavor will be raw, sharp and spicy. Simmering will transform your sauce into a mellow, complex sauce.
  • Use a thick-walled pot so the molé doesn't burn. Simmer on medium-low to medium heat.
  • As the molé simmers, check periodically. Add more water as necessary and stir to keep sauce from scorching.
  • Leftover sauce will keep 3 days in the refrigerator. Molé also freezes well. Pour it into labeled freezer containers and store for up to six months.
  • Use leftover sauce in burritos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, as a substitute for BBQ sauce, etc. It will infuse your meal with incredible flavor.
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Read More From Delishably

Red Molé With Chicken

Adapted from Rick Bayless's red molé recipe. Yield: 9 servings.

Ingredients

For chicken and broth:

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pound chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 whole onion, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves

For molé:

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • vegetable oil
  • 14 chiles, about 6 ounces total weight
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 slice white bread, darkly toasted and broken into pieces
  • 1 ounce good quality chocolate, preferably Mexican
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Fill a stockpot with 12 cups of water. Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour or until chicken is tender.
  2. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Discard onion and spices. Reserve the broth for the sauce. When the chicken has cooled, remove meat from the bone and shred or chop it. Set aside.
  3. Wipe any visible dust from dried chiles.
  4. Place chiles, sesame seeds, almonds and white bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. Remove chiles and raisins when they are fragrant and puffed, 5 to 6 minutes. Sesame seeds and almonds will need 10 or 15 minutes to turn golden brown. Leave white bread on baking sheet until toasted dark brown.
  5. Seed, devein and stem cooled chiles. Cover with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate, about 30 minutes.
  6. In hot oil, saute garlic cloves until golden brown and soft, about 5 minutes. Set garlic cloves aside with other toasted ingredients.
  7. Pour off and discard water from chiles.
  8. Scoop chiles into a blender jar and, with 3 cups of water, blend until smooth. Press through a strainer and into a large bowl.
  9. Return chile puree to pot with hot oil. Stir every few minutes, simmering for about half an hour or until it reduces and reaches the consistency of tomato paste.
  10. Toss into blender jar the toasted ingredients: sesame seeds, almonds, garlic and raisins. Also add cinnamon, pepper, coriander, cumin, anise, cloves, bread, chocolate and 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth. Blend thoroughly, strain through mesh strainer and add to reduced chile paste.
  11. Add rest of the broth and the tomato paste to the pot and stir. Simmer over medium heat for about 2 1/2 hours, or until flavors marry and mellow. If the sauce has reduced beyond the consistency of cream soup, stir in more water. Season with salt (about 2 teaspoons) and 3 tablespoons of sugar.
mexican-mole-recipe

Serving Ideas

Serve with corn or flour tortillas and shredded chicken. Garnish with crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro. Accompany with margaritas and Mexican rice.

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