Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mole Poblano

Do you ever suffer from foodie ennui? My list of sweet treat 'I must try this one day' recipes is endless. Yet when it comes to what to have for dinner I struggle. I can't always get excited about yet another variation of meat and vegetables.

A few weeks back I reached a point of total and complete uninspiration. I went through cookbook after cookbook and nothing looked attractive. Same old, same old. I decided that what I needed was something completely new, a totally different direction, something totally outside my realm of experience.

But what? The answer came when I spotted this in my in favourite cookware store.

This is Ibarra chocolate from Mexico. A coarse chocolate mixed with granulated sugar and cinnamon. I simply had to make mole poblano. This rich sauce hails from the Mexican state of Puebla and is made from a mix of dried chiles, nuts, spices and of course chocolate.

I have never been to Mexico. I have never tasted or even seen a mole. South and Central American cuisines are fairly obscure here in Australia. Here in Canberra, I have a choice of two Mexican restaurants doing the standard tacos, burritos, enchiladas or pre-packaged tacos, burritos, enchiladas from the supermarket. Perfect.

The first step was to find a recipe. I settled on this one (Mole Paste #1 and Mole Sauce #1).

The second step was to find the dried chiles - ancho, mulato and pasilla. Each has a distinct flavour adding depth and layers to the flavour of the sauce. Now obviously I wasn't going to pick these up at the supermarket. So I went online. Nothing is out of reach these days. A few days later three plump packets dropped into my mailbox and I was all set.

The whole process did take time, but it wasn't difficult. The basis for the paste is ground nuts and seeds, principally almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and raisins.

A range of spices are then added - cinnamon, cloves, pepper and oregano. The chocolate goes in right at the end. You end up with something like this - a beautifully rich brown unctuous paste (chanelling Nigella here. you can just hear her saying this can't you. tis true though).

The paste is added to a fairly basic tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and chicken stock.

Traditionally mole is served over turkey. Again, turkey is not a big thing here. So I went with chicken. I grilled some flattened chicken breasts, poured the sauce over and braised in the oven for 15 minutes. And here it is. I served it with plain steamed rice and broccoli. From what I have read, traditionally the mole is the meal. Everthing else, inluding the meat, is just there to support it.

So after all that what was it like. Well, interesting. The mole had a very complex flavour. It was quite earthy thanks to the chiles and the chocolate. The chiles also provided heat. It was at the upper limit of my comfort level which is pretty much at the bottom of the scale for anyone else.

I have to admit, at first bite, I thought 'oh no this is not for me'. But the more I ate the more I liked it. By the end I was really enjoying it. So now I am keen to try some other moles. There are many different types - mole negro or green mole for example - which don't use chocolate.

Overall, it was well worth the effort. It was new and exciting, it was energising and it was FUN. This is what cooking is all about.

Of course mole is not the only thing you can make with ibarra chocolate. It makes the best hot chocolate. Melt two of triangle segments in a cup of hot milk. Creamy, cinnamony and delicious.


At 7:51 am, Blogger Dolores said...

Wow... an exciting culinary adventure inspired by a hunk of chocolate! Consider me both impressed and inspired.

At 7:14 am, Blogger Sara said...

I love Mole but the thought of making it at home seems so daunting. You've made it look not too bad here, though.

At 12:43 pm, Blogger Helene said...

I just picked up a block of Mexican make hot chocolate but i might save some to make mole. As Sara said you made it looked quite accessible. Thank you!

At 11:07 pm, Blogger KJ said...

Hi Culinary Curious, Sara and Helen. Thanks for your comments. It was simpler than I thought it would be. Although I make no claims for authenticity. All I know is that I quite liked what I ended up with.


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