It can be said that there are as many recipes for a mole as there are last names in Oaxaca. The tradition of the mole seems to me kind of like an inter-generational competition for the tastiest, most complex, supremely appealing mix of chile, spices, blood, sweat and tears. Oaxaca is of course the most famous region for mole (though Puebla boasts its own Mole Poblano), and everyone here has an opinion on which mole is best, which ingredient can never be omitted, and sometimes even tips on which ingredients are more soothing to the stomach (charred tortillas are high on the list, which reminded me that charcoal tablets are a common remedy for a bad stomach back home).
So, to cover some common questions about mole. The difference between mole and salsa is that a salsa is usually thin, made from combining cooked or raw ingredients into a well seasoned but watery liquid. A mole, however, can end up a little closer to a solid form, the ingredients being prepared then ground together and usually cooked again to amalgamate the flavours. The texture and complexity of the sauce is somewhat more akin to a dense curry than anything else.
Mole more or less translates to "concoction", and is derived from the Nahuatl word Molli. Famous for being a chocolate and chile sauce, most versions are far from hot and are only nuanced by chocolate, rather than defined by it. The following recipe might have some Oaxacans rolling in their graves, and others queuing up for a second plate. It is impossible to define any mole given its variety of interpretations, its ability to be identified through any combination of ingredients (peanuts understudy almonds, cloves act as allspice), the soul of the mole despite its changing face. The following is special to me, and has earned its own kudos here from time to time. I hope you enjoy it as much.
Mole Coloradito | makes 4 portions
1/2 cup vege oil or manteca
2 ancho chile
3 chile guajillo
2 chile pasilla
1/2 cup raw peanuts
300g egg tomato
1 onion halved
150g tomatillo (or 150g more tomato + 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, if unavailable)
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
30g dark Mexican drinking chocolate (or good quality dark chocolate)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
- After wiping the chiles clean, split, de-seed and fry one at a time for about 5 seconds in vegetable oil. Place in a saucepan with the raisins and cover with boiling water. Leave sit for 10 minutes.
- In the same oil, fry the peanuts for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Drain from the oil and reserve.
- On a comal, toast the tomato, tomatillo, garlic, and onion. When the tomatoes are soft all the way through, remove from the heat. Quickly toast sesame seeds till golden than add the cloves, oregano, and thyme and heat for 30 seconds.
- Place all ingredients in a blender with 1/2 a cup of the chicken stock. Blend until very fine. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer, reserve.
- Take a small amount of the oil used for frying the chiles and peanuts, and heat it in a frying pan. Carefully add the paste, fry for 2-3 minutes until very fragrant. Add the salt, chocolate and remaining chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve over poached chicken with warm tortillas.