Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mole poblano

These days I am going to be delighting you (I hope) with the recipes I cooked for the Holiday season. I thought the best way to start was by introducing something that even when it is arguably the most popular dish in Mexico (I have sources), and is quite well known around the world, it is still, well, weird to the non initiated.
 The word mole comes from the nahuatl mulli or molle, which simply means sauce or concoction. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that there are at least as many different "moles" as states in Mexico. This particular mole is a perfect example of the process of mestizaje* that took place in Mexico during the colonial period. Eventhough mole certainly has its roots in precolumbian times, the sauce as we know it today has european and african ingredients (so we could say that we are the ones who started with "fusion" cuisine). Its origins are not clear, but the legend says that the nuns in a convent in Puebla were trying to impress some archbishop who was visiting for dinner, and they came up with this sauce by mixing pretty much every ingredient they had in hand. This sauce is served most commonly over chicken, though sometimes also over pork, beef, turkey or served as "enchiladas". Its ingredients include several types of chili (serrano, ancho, mulato, pasilla, chipotle), spices such as clove, cinammon, pepper and sometimes anise, toasted bread, almonds, garlic, peanuts, tomato, sugar and chocolate. And be sure that I am missing some.
 When you make it from scratch be ready to spend one day at home preparing it. You have to individually roast and squash each ingredient and then put it all together in a paste. Nowadays it is possible to buy this paste freshly made at markets, or even packed in glass jars or boxes.
 When you use the latter, the preparation is simplified a lot, since it is making the paste that requires time and effort. The only thing you would have to do is "dissolve" the paste in about a liter of chicken broth, then add purée of cooked, peeled tomatoes, chocolate, cinnamon, and keep mixing until you reach the desired thick consistency.
 Traditionally it is cooked on pans made out of clay, cazuelas. So I used my beloved cast-iron ceramic enameled pot, which was the most similar thing I had in hand. Also, as pretty as the cazuelas are, they have been associated with lead toxicity, so don't cook in them, specially everyday, when you can avoid it.
 Here you can find a traditional recipe. And here you can read more about the origins of mole and the different kinds that we enjoy in our country. If you missed it, at the end of  this post I tell you all about where you can get mole paste in Holland, Spain or from a shop that ships all over. Just for the record, last Friday when I made it I had 2 converts, people who actually tried it before and hated it and now found it delicious :) So I am rather proud.
*the word mestizaje, can be rather simplistically defined as racial and/or cultural mixing of Amerindians with Europeans (1), though you can imagine that the process was a lot more complex than that and has deep consequences even today.


  1. I love how you educate me every time - you are so adoreable! also I was wondering if you knew of a mexican sweet- I once found a recipe for it, it used condensed milk and basically kept boiling it. . vague I know!!! PLEASE come have adventures in my kitchen! much love

  2. "Making mole from scratch" is now added to my bucket list.

    The idea of pouring something resembling a spicy chocolate sauce over meat has to be the best idea ever.

  3. Yummy!
    I really want to try it!

    About cultural mixing in LatinAmerica,there's a very interesting UNESCO funded project called "La Ruta del Esclavo"which aims at showing the African roots and influences in our traditions and there even DNA tests conducted for people to know where they come from African descent. This is huge for Argentina, because the reality of black roots was systematically denied until now (just to give you an idea, in the census of 1880 the cathegory "black"was aliminated from the race one could declare to belong to...with all that it implies)Here are some links, if you are interested:

  4. I wish I could find the paste here... Maybe I'll try it from scratch one day! :)

    I've tried several different moles but the majority tastes fake, and blah... like, you kind of wonder, were are the spices?

  5. @ Hanna I think I know what you mean, it is what we call cajeta, or dulce de leche in Argentina. It is a bit tedious to make in the sense that it takes long and you can not really leave the pan. Here is a recipe for the argentinian version:

    @smitten immigrant, you should definitely try, we did it when a friend was busy with her thesis in a town in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, and we spent a whole day with a grandma preparing it. It was a great experience .

    @ Marcela, that is super interesting thanks. My best friend (historian) is actually in Chile busy with a thesis that deals exactly on that (tracing the roots of black slaves, how they mixed in the culture, etc. in the context of Bolivia).

    @ Ines, oh I will send you some paste ! It should be easy to put it in a box. This one (even the pre cooked version) is quite spicy, and you can tone it down with the chocolate as much as you like.

  6. I forgot to mention something really crazy: Apparently the slaves that arrived to Cordoba (my city) were Baoulé...and when I lived in Ivory Coast, I was in Pays Baoulé (the south east of the country is populated by Baoulé people)...I feel like I came full circle.

  7. @ Marcela, wow, that is impressive. That is really closing circles. I am crazy about connections you know. We really are all one.

  8. oh, never got to thank you for this. Yes, I would love that! I'll make sure to send you something portuguese in return! :)

  9. @ Ines, I will email you ! Is it ok if I send it in March or so, then I can send the Narnia books as well all in 1 box :p


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