Ride a hilly Metric Century on my bicycle (62 miles) or prepare a Mole Poblano? Each takes about 5 -1/2 hours to complete, and both are epic events. Standing in the kitchen can be nearly as tiring as pedaling for that duration. I’ve had the pleasure of eating many kinds of moles of pureed spices, chiles, seeds and a myriad of other ingredients in Mexico many times. I had heard that preparing this Mexican haute cuisine dish from scratch was time-consuming, but I had no idea of the effort required. The recipe I chose is from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art (available on epicurious.com) and is very similar to the one in Frida’s Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo a lovely, beautiful cookbook.
My preparation began by shopping at the Mercado Latino which sells the dried chiles in separate bags for about $2.50 each. Nearly every one of the 20+ ingredients in this mole needs pre-treatment before being combined into one of three distinct purees. I toasted, roasted, blanched, blended, plumped, chopped, popped, husked, ground, soaked, fried, … you get the picture. In my pre-cooking research, I read many warnings against taking shortcuts to avoid a muddy-tasting mole.
My husband helped out after his 30-mile bike ride by de-veining and de-seeding 22 dried chiles: 9 mulatos, 7 pasillas and 6 anchos. The dried chiles are black with specks of red and give the Mole Poblano its color. Chef Ravago strongly advises using exactly 22 chiles, and although you can vary the number of each, you may never substitute any other kind of chile. I counted out the chiles three times. I never question cooking superstitions, especially on such an elaborate dish.
In the spirit of keeping my blog posts at around 500 words, I will summarize the next few hours of the preparation process which challenged all of my cooking know-how and followed with heavy-duty pureeing to ensure smooth pastes. By the end of the afternoon, even my VitaMix and food processor were tired, their motors heating up in protest! I can certainly empathize with cooks from the days of old when the ingredients were hand-ground in a molcajete. After combining half a round of Ibarra Mexican chocolate with the purees, the mole quietly simmered in a dutch oven for about an hour requiring frequent stirring to prevent scorching. My fear of ruining four hours of food preparation and needlessly splattering the VeloKitchen and dirtying countless dishes counted toward my day’s upper body workout.
Mole Poblano is commonly served over chicken in Mexican restaurants. Frida’s recipe calls for turkey. Since we prepared this dish as an appetizer for a chocolate-themed wine dinner with foodie friends, we decided to present the mole over three kinds of meat: poached turkey, roasted duck and grilled pork, and served with a dark Mexican beer: Negra Modelo. My husband handled the roasting and grilling.
The result was a divine Mole Poblano: well-balanced, smooth, spicy, but not too hot, and no flavor overpowered another. By far, the duck brought out the virtues of the mole’s flavors and the beer nicely complimented the spices and textures.
If you are interested in more photos of the mole preparation process, please visit my Cycling Chef Facebook page and share your Mole Poblano cooking and eating experiences in the comments below!
Originally published on March 7, 2010.
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