Molè Oaxaqueño

Okay, I'm from New Hampshire, so I must ask you this: have you ever eaten molè?  I mean, real molè.  Because I'd never even seen it in person, until last week, when my Oaxacan-turned-Californian friend Pam and I finally found the opportunity to make it together.  Such ingredients aren't that readily available in New Hampshire; so imagine my delight at all the awesome products we found at the Latin American grocery store we visited in Pilsen.  You'll probably be seeing an extensive post about tamales on this site at some point, since I treated myself to a lot of corn husks and masa, in addition to Mexican oregano and coffee.  But, of course, molè is the focus for today's post, and so I should tell you that we purchased dried guajillo and ancho chilis, avocado leaves, plantains, and Mexican drinking chocolate at this magical store as well.  I almost bought a tortilla press, people.  I was this close.  But I restrained myself.  I regret it.

Molè is a sauce with a myriad of variations depending on where you are in Mexico.  As I said before, Pam is from Oaxaca, and this is her family's recipe.  I was really very honored to be able to make this with her, and very glad that she let me share it here.  Some food experiences are incredibly context dependent, especially culturally significant dishes like this one.  So it's really important that she herself showed me how to do this, and that we cooked and ate it together, simply with the intent of enjoying a meal that was very close to her heart and allowing me to share that with her.  Thank you, Pam.  You're a dear.  Everyone, say hello to Pam (I really liked this in black and white, so here it is):

Molè Oaxaqueño

4 chicken thighs
~6 quarts water
2 onions
6 cloves garlic
~1 tablespoon salt, ~1 teaspoon ground black pepper

First, make the broth.  I suppose you could use pre-made chicken broth, but this method yields both broth for the sauce and chicken with which to serve the sauce.  

In a large stock pot, add the chicken thighs, onions which have been quartered but not peeled, garlic with the peel, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Cover with enough water to fill up about half the stock pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for a couple hours until the broth is full of flavor and the chicken is cooked.  Reserve ~1 c of the broth for the sauce.

15 dried guajillo chilis
15 dried ancho chilis
4 tomatoes
~4 c water
1/4 c canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 handful each (see note above) of pecans, peanuts, almonds, avocado leaves, raisins
~1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
~1 teaspoon salt
~1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 c sesame seeds
1 piece stale, toasted bread, torn into small pieces
1 small plantain, skin removed
1 c reserved chicken broth
1.5 ounces Mexican drinking chocolate

Place the tomatoes and water in a small sauce pot, then simmer until the tomato flesh is soft.  Meanwhile, prepare the chilis by removing the stems and shaking out the seeds.  Place the cleaned chilis in a bowl and cover with boiling water, then let them steep until you need them.

In a medium skillet, warm the canola oil over medium heat.  Saute the onions until soft, then add in the garlic until both have browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil.  Immediately add the pecans, peanuts, almonds, an appropriate amount of salt and pepper, oregano, and the cinnamon stick.  Toast everything for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant, then remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and add to the onion and garlic.  Toast the avocado leaves for about a minute with the cinnamon stick, then remove those as well.  Do the same thing with the raisins, remove them, then with the sesame seeds and bread.  

In a strong blender, combine all of the items you've just toasted, including the cinnamon stick, and chicken stock.  If you're having trouble pureeing everything, add a little more chicken stock.  Pour the toasted nut and chicken stock mixture into a pot, add in the plantain whole, and cook over medium heat.  You'll know it's ready when the plantain breaks down and combines with the rest of the sauce, and when the sauce has come together as a paste that lifts away from the pan with stirring.

In the same blender (no need to wash it or even rinse it out), add in the soaked chilis and softened tomatoes. Add enough of the chili liquid to puree this mixture thoroughly.  You shouldn't be able to detect any shards of chili.  To be safe, you can strain it through a fine-mesh seive.  Once the nut-plantain sauce has become a paste as instructed above, pour in the chili-tomato sauce.  Simmer this mixture for ~1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add in the chocolate and cook another ~1.5 hours until the sauce has darkened.  Pam and I ate this molè with the poached chicken, mashed plantains, and roasted corn and zucchini.  For the mashed plantains, all you need is:

2 plantains, peeled and quartered
1.5 c water
1 tablespoon canola oil

Just simmer these ingredients together until the plantains are completely soft, then mash.

1 comment :

  1. Oh my goodness. Mole is one of my favorite things. Whenever I go home, my family comes to get me from the airport and we go eat mole at an amazing Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake. Soooo good.