RECIPE: Mole Negro Oaxaqueño

MOLE

/mo·le/

Classical Nahuatl:

Noun

  1. sauce, molli o mulli

When I think of sweet and savory, mole instantly comes to mind. The blend of aromatic spices, chiles and chocolate make for a rich melange of flavors that make your tongue dance through the centuries of Mexican cooking. Mole is hard to classify because depending on who you are speaking with, mole can be a sauce or a main entree. I often see mole poblano smothered over enchiladas at restaurants in NYC, but Chef Enrique Olvera's Pujol in Mexico City serves mole as the main course, accompanied only by tortillas. I see it somewhere in the middle, as a hearty, protein forward sauce that cannot be over powered by another dish on the table.

Mole Negro Oaxaqueño

This mole will be difficult to make - I won't lie to you there. It requires patience and a culinary understanding that is not for the unseasoned cook. Most of the ingredients should be easy to source except for the chilhuacle negro chiles. On my last trip to Mexico City, I had to ask several market stalls in Mercado Medellin for these chiles. One woman even confused them for cascabel! I found them here, but they are rather pricey. Put these on your shopping list next time you're in Mexico. Fine mesh strainers will be your best friends when making refined mole. You do not want your mole to be gritty, it should be thick, not gritty.

Mole is for celebrating. You simply cannot make a small batch of it and it is best to have a dinner party to serves it to your many guests. You can also save it in an airtight container and keep it in the freezer for 3 months.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, bone in, skin intact
  • 5 chilhuacle negro chiles, seeds removed and saved
  • 5 guajillo chiles, seeds removed and saved
  • 4 pasilla chiles, seeds removed and saved
  • 5 ancho chiles, seeds removed and saved
  • 2 chipotle mecos
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced in rounds 1/2 inch thick
  • 6 cloves garlic, skin intact
  • 4 medium tomatillos, rinsed and skin removed
  • 2 medium roma tomatoes, cored
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, skin intact
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, unsalted 
  • 1 inch piece canela (Mexican cinnamon)
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pecans
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 slice bread (a kaiser roll works fine) 
  • 1/2 plantain, sliced in 1 inch rounds
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lard OR vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces chocolate, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 15 fresh tortillas, cooked on a comal
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 radish, sliced

Method:

  1. Place chicken in pot and fill with 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer until the chicken reads 150 degrees with a thermometer. Remove from liquid and allow to cool. Remove the skin and shred the meat from the bone. Store in the fridge or in a warm spot until ready for serving. Reserve the stock.
  2. Heat a comal over medium-low heat and toast the chiles for roughly 10 minutes in a well ventilated kitchen (open a window). Depending on how dry the chiles are, 10 minutes may be too long. Once toasted soak the chiles in water for 30 minutes. Blend the chile mixture in the blender for 10 minutes with 1 cup of fresh water. Strain the chiles using a fine mesh strainer in a bowl. 
  3. Raise the heat on the comal to medium and cook the onion, tomatillos, tomatoes until charred and soft to the touch. Reserve in a bowl.
  4. In a dry skillet over medium heat toast the almonds, peanuts, canela, peppercorns, cloves, sesame seeds and pecans until fragrant and lightly browned. Reserve in the same bowl as the ingredients from step 3.
  5. In the same dry skillet toast the chile seeds until black. Once fully blackened, light the seeds on fire and let the flames charr them until shiny. Put in cold water and soak for 10 minutes, strain and soak for another 5 minutes in fresh water.
  6. In the same skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the raisins for 1 minute and allow them to puff up. Strain and reserve in the same bowl as the other ingredients. Fry the bread until brown, strain and reserve in the same bowl. Fry the plantain for 5 minutes, strain and reserve.
  7. Blend all the ingredients from steps 3-6, the thyme and oregano for 10 minutes with 1 cup of chicken stock from step 1. More stock may need to be added if the blender becomes stuck. Pass the paste through a fine mesh strainer.
  8. Heat lard over a medium flame and pour the chile mixture into the pan. Stir constantly for two minutes. Add the spice and nut mixture from step 7 and allow the mixture to cook over low heat for 30 minutes. More stock may need to be added if the spluttering is too rapidly. The mole should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but not gritty. Mole should splutter slightly and your stove will be messy. Relax - it's worth it.
  9. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Salt to taste.
  10. Assemble the warm chicken in fresh tortillas and arrange on a plate. Smother the enchiladas with the mole, garnishing with sliced onion and radish. Serve with white rice and fresh tortillas for mopping up the sauce.