Sweet & Smoky Mexican Mole Sauce Recipe
Recipe for Mole or Mexican BBQ Sauce
Mole (pronounced moh-lay) has gained popularity the world over thanks to the culinary genius of chefs such as Rick Bayless, the "King of Mexican cuisine". What is mole?
Basically, mole is a Mexican sauce with 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, mole 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 mole. 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 mole negro, or black mole. Rick Bayless, whose mole contributed to his title of Top Chef Master, made his Oaxacan black mole for one of Obama's White House state dinners. His mole 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 mole. Because of availability, I use Peruvian "marisol" chiles and "colorado" chiles for my red mole and throw in a chipotle for extra smokiness. Please see "tips" section for suggested chile combinations.
Don't trust "quick" mole recipes which require only half an hour of cooking time. Mole must be simmered for at least two hours, until thick and pungent. But beware: mole is extremely addictive!
Chile Pepper Variety
narrow, long and dark/spicy flavor
aji amarillo, Peruvian guajillo, marisol chile
orange and wrinkled/fruity, grassy flavor
reddish-brown to brown/smoky flavor
smooth, shiny and reddish-brown/bright, fruity earthy flavor
New Mexico red chile
smooth, shiny and red/crisp, earthy flavor
smooth, shiny, red/crisp, mild flavor
dark and wrinkly/sweet, smoky flavor
dark and wrinkly/sweet, raisin-like flavor
aji panca, colorado chile
smooth, shiny, reddish-brown/smoky, berry flavor
shiny and amber/crisp, citrus flavor
shiny, dark and fat/deep, intense and fruity flavor
rattle chile, bola chile
small and round with noisy seeds/intense nutty flavor
chile negro, pasilla negro, dried chilaca
long, black and wrinkled/grapey, earthy flavor
- 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 black mole, 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 mole 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 spicy mole.
- Carefully watch chiles while toasting them. Burnt chiles make bitter mole.
- Before simmering, try your mole. The flavor will be raw, sharp and spicy. Simmering will transform your mole into a mellow, complex sauce.
- Use a thick-walled pot so mole doesn't burn. Simmer on medium-low to medium heat.
- As the mole simmers, check periodically. Add more water as necessary and stir to keep sauce from scorching.
- Leftover mole will keep 3 days in the refrigerator. Mole also freezes well. Pour it into labeled freezer containers and store for up to six months.
- Use leftover mole in burritos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, as a substitute for BBQ sauce, etc. It will infuse your meal with incredible flavor.
Red Mole With Chicken
Adapted from Rick Bayless's red mole recipe
For chicken and broth:
- 2 - 2 1/2 pound chicken
- salt and pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 whole onion, peeled
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- vegetable oil
- 14 chiles, about 6 ounces total weight
- 4 large garlic cloves
- ½ cup whole almonds
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ 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
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- Fill a stock pot with 12 cups of water. Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour, or until chicken is tender.
- Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Discard onion and spices. Reserve broth for mole recipe. When chicken has cooled, remove meat from the bone and shred or chop it. Set aside.
- Wipe any visible dust from dried chiles.
- 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, 5-6 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.
- Seed, devein and stem cooled chiles. Cover with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate, about 30 minutes.
- In hot oil, sauté garlic cloves until golden brown and soft, about 5 minutes. Set garlic cloves aside with other toasted ingredients.
- Pour off and discard water from chiles.
- Scoop chiles into a blender jar and, with 3 cups of water, blend until smooth. Press through a strainer and into a large bowl.
- 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.
- Toss into blender jar the toasted ingredients: sesame seeds, almonds, garlic and raisins. Also add cinnamon, pepper, coriander, cumin, anise, cloves, bread, chocolate and 2-3 cups of chicken broth. Blend thoroughly, strain through mesh strainer and add to reduced chile paste.
- Add rest of the broth and the tomato paste to the pot of mole and stir. Simmer over medium heat for about 2 ½ hours, or until flavors marry and mellow. If the mole has reduced beyond the consistency of cream soup, stir in more water. Season with salt (about 2 teaspoons) and 3 Tablespoons of sugar.
Serve with corn or flour tortillas and shredded chicken. Garnish with crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro. Accompany with margaritas and Mexican rice.
Yield: 9 servings
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