it’s a long story. but it all began about 2 weeks ago when i decided to cook lunch for the better part of the editorial staff of the nashville scene, our local free press. because i love them over there. because they are smart and funny and cool. and because they have a food blog called "bites" to which i am quite attached, as well as being an all too frequent commenter.
but i didn’t offer to cook just any old lunch. i mean, i could have easily brought them beef wellington or moussaka, a peking duck or a wedding cake – or any random recipe out of the ‘french laundry cookbook‘. but no. i decided to make them an authentic oaxacan black mole. something i knew nothing about. zero. zippo. nada. and i must admit that whenever i’d eaten it before, and it hadn’t been lately – the tequilla must have kicked in early on because i haven’t any recollection of the many flavor layers and subtle nuances of this highly esteemed mexican dish – the mole negro.
i was a mole making virgin. and yes, blood was shed… 29 ingredients, eleventy million steps and 7 hours later – after one flesh wound, 4 burns and almost crying (but only once), i pulled myself together, channeling my inner mexican grandmother from a past life – and i somehow had me some majorly kick ass mole. i kid you not. the results are in. i rock. the eastern european jew from nyc who was only in mexico for 3 days on the carnival cruise fun ship from hell - i give myself a solid A-. yes indeed. i lost points for what i believe was not toasting my chili’s long enough for fear of burning them, therefore losing a degree of depth of flavor AND i couldn’t get my chili seeds to ignite with a match after i’d blackened them (i mean wtf?). but besides that i was golden. a kitchen blow torch would’ve come in very handy… but alas with the 147 kitchen appliances and various implements of the culinary kind, i am somehow sans torch.
claudia, (the press asks) where did you get the recipe and how ever did you decide which one to use? well, (clearing my throat) first of all, thank you so much for asking and for recognizing the greatness of my efforts and allow me to tell you all about it, because a lot of thought and consideration went into the process of finding this award winning recipe. firstly, somehow i lost my rick bayliss cookbook in my divorce to a man who rarely cooks. so after dwelling in the moderate amount of anger that this brought up, i popped a xanax and turned to google. after looking at about 15 versions, i narrowed it down to 2 recipes that seemed to have the right vibe of authenticity (aka complication). one was plucked from a very cool 2005 post that waxed poeticly about the history of mole and included a romantic sounding recipe featuring the mole negro ‘from "Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey through Oaxaca, Mexico" by Susana Trilling’…
while the other was a recipe from emeril. the BAM man.
(new york times)
and you just gotta know that emeril’s tv personna is so very grating to me – and that i therefore put him in the same category as rachel ray, and the rest of the food network yokels. (yes, yes, there are exceptions…) but then tony, you know… my tony, well he set me straight, after he apologized for bad mouthing emeril as he had done in his book ‘kitchen confidential’ – now saying that the guy really was a good guy – and a true chef. but still. BAM? i don’t do BAM. i do NPT. and so i went with Susana. my new BFF. and then today, just because, i decided to google "Seasons of My Heart", having no clue what any of that was all about and discovered that it was featured in a FOOD NETWORK special broadcast from a series called ‘Tasting Mexico’. and then i died. BAM. the end.
Mole Negro Oaxaqueno
from Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey through Oaxaca, Mexico by Susana Trilling
4 large onions, chopped, plus 1 medium onion, quartered
8 ribs celery, chopped
8 carrots, chopped
2 (3 pound) chickens, cut into 12 pieces, skinned
5 chilhuacles negros, seeded and deveined; seeds reserved (*i used mulato chili’s as chilhuacles are very hard to procure)
5 guajillos, seeded and deveined; seeds reserved
4 pasillas Mexicanos, seeded and deveined; seeds reserved
4 anchos negros, seeded and deveined; seeds reserved
2 chipotles mecos, seeded and deveined; seeds reserved
1/2 head garlic, cloves separated
2 tablespoons whole almonds 2 tablespoons shelled and skinned raw peanuts
1 (1-inch) piece Mexican cinnamon
3 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 1/2 tablespoons raisins
1 slice egg-dough bread
1 small ripe plantain, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2-cup sesame seeds
2 pecan halves
1/2 pound chopped tomatoes
1/4 pound chopped tomatillos
1 sprig thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 sprig Oaxacan oregano, or 1/2 tsp. dried
2 tablespoons lard
4 1/2 ounces Mexican chocolate
1 avocado leaf
Salt, to taste
In a 2 gallon stockpot, heat 5 quarts water and onions, celery, and carrots to a boil. Add chicken pieces and poach, covered, over low heat for about 35 to 45 minutes, until cooked through and juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Remove the meat from the stock. Strain and reserve the stock.
Heat 2 quarts of water in a kettle. On a 10-inch dry comal, griddle, or in a cast-iron frying pan, toast the chiles over medium heat until blackened, but not burnt, about 10 minutes. Place the chiles in a large bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for 1/2 hour. Remove the chiles from the soaking water with tongs, placing small batches in a blender with 1/4 cup of the chile soaking water to blend smooth. Put the chile puree through a strainer to remove the skins.
In the same dry comal, griddle, or frying pan, grill the onion and garlic over medium heat for 10 minutes. Set aside. Toast the almonds, peanuts, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves in a dry comal, griddle or cast-iron frying pan for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan.
Over the same heat, toast the chile seeds, taking care to blacken but not burn them, about 20 minutes. Try to do this outside or in a well-ventilated place because the seeds will give off very strong fumes. When the seeds are completely black, light them with a match and let them burn themselves out. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Soak the blackened seeds in 1 cup of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds and grind them in a blender for about 2 minutes. Add the blended chile seeds to the blended chile mixture.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in an 8-inch cast-iron frying pan over medium heat until smoking. Add the raisins and fry them until they are plump, approximately 1 minute. Remove from the pan. Fry the bread slice in the same oil until browned, about 5 minutes, over medium heat. Remove from pan. Fry the plantain in the same oil until it is well browned, approximately 10 minutes, over medium heat. Set aside.
Fry the sesame seeds, stirring constantly over low heat, adding more oil if needed. When the sesame seeds start to brown, about 5 minutes, add the pecans and brown for 2 minutes more. Remove all from the pan, let cool, and grind finely in a spice grinder. It takes a bit of time, but this is the only way to grind the seeds and nuts finely enough.
Wipe out the frying pan and fry the tomatoes, tomatillos, thyme, and oregano over medium to high heat, allowing the juices to almost evaporate, about 15 minutes. Blend well, using 1/2 cup of reserved stock if needed to blend and set aside. Place the nuts, bread, plantains, raisins, onion, garlic and spices in the blender in small batches, and blend well, adding about 1 cup of stock to make it smooth.
In a heavy 4-quart stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of lard or oil until smoking and fry the chile paste over medium to low heat, stirring constantly so it will not burn, approximately 20 minutes. When it is dry, add the tomato puree and fry until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the ground ingredients, including the sesame seed paste, to the pot. Stir constantly with a wooden soon until well-incorporated, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken stock to the mole, stir well, and allow to cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break up the chocolate and add to the pot, stirring until it is melted and incorporated into the mixture. Toast the avocado leaf briefly over the flame if you have a gas range or in a dry frying pan and then add it to the pot. Slowly add more stock to the mole, as it will keep thickening as it cooks. Add enough salt to bring out the flavor. Let simmer another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so it does not stick, adding stock as needed. The mole should not be thick; just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Place the cooked chicken pieces in the leftover stock in a saucepan and heat through. To serve, place a piece of chicken in a shallow bowl and ladle 3/4 of a cup of mole sauce over to cover it completely. Serve immediately with lots of hot corn tortillas. (ceF note – as a final step, i strained the mole when i was completely finished in order to remove any final grit)
ok – so a couple of things: 1. i am NEVER EVER making this again, even though it was great and 2. therefore i have decided to hold the first ceF contest in the long and distinguished history of this blog. to enter, you just need to leave a comment and then this random number generator will pick 2 winners and you will both receive the following 14 ingredients in quantities enough to make one recipe of the aforementioned mole negro oaxaqueno: guajillo, pasilla, ancho and chipotle chili peppers raw peanuts mexican cinnamon cloves and peppercorns raisins sesame seeds pecan halves mexican oregano mexican chocolate avocado leaves
this should give you quite the head start to making a muy bueno mole negro that will impress the masses and make you famous in influential circles across the universe. guaranteed or your money back. deadline for comment entries is midnight on monday march 10. so go ahead and click on ‘comment’ and you too could be slaving in your kitchen for an entire day preparing the much revered mexican mole negro – soon to be worshiped by your friends and family.
a little worship is a beautiful thing…