Several years ago, I tried to make an authentic mole. This is a Mexican sauce—like many others—with no set list of ingredients. Basic ingredients include chilies, fruit, some kind of seeds or nuts, one or more herbs and/or spices, and frequently chocolate. Just about every family, in Mexico and beyond, has their own variation—some with as many as 30 ingredients.
Note: One problem I had with my original recipe is that—while it was complex and tasty—it took a lot of time and made an enormous amount of mole. For a Hispanic family that uses it frequently, this would not be a issue. With my eclectic style of cooking, it left me with large bags of mole crowding my freezer. I plan to cut my original recipe down to a reasonable size.
One big short cut I used with this sauce was to use pre-ground chilies. Originally, I used whole chile pods, which I cleaned, tore up, toasted, and ground to a powder. Recently, I made a four chile chili powder that I think has a good balance of heat and flavor. Using this powder as my base greatly reduced the preparation time.
Another short cut was to use creamy peanut butter, instead of grinding a lot of almond. One danger of using nuts in a sauce is that if you do not fully grind to a smooth paste they will make your sauce “gritty.” This change also reduced the labor time.
I kept many of the original ingredients , but with reduced amounts. I substituted Zante currents—which give a nice fruity flavor—and tossed out the plantain, avocado, golden raisins, and canned tomatoes. Discarding the excess liquid of the beer also allowed me to eliminate the ground tortillas—ground peanuts will absorb an amazing amount of liquid over time thickening the sauce quite nicely.
I had made chicken tacos the night before Jan and Eilene left for Hopi. There was too much left over for one person to eat, so I decided to make tamales with the excess filling. I went to Chavez Supermarket and bought some masa preparada para tamales—this is masa prepared to make tamales with the lard and other ingredients already added.
Note: Since I was using leftovers, I only needed half of the masa to make the chicken tamales. Prepared masa does not keep well uncooked, so I quickly made a pork version of my chicken taco filling to use up the masa.
Jan and Eilene have come home and Sunday was Fathers Day. With bags of tamales it seemed like an easy, no stress Sunday dinner. However, on their own tamales can be a bit dry. Some mole to moisten them seemed like a good choice. I was also planning on making a salsa roja—the traditional sauce to put on tamales—but in passing the kitchen calendar, Jan spotted a blackberry salsa recipe and asked me to make that.
After Dinner Note: This turned out to be a very good sauce. The original sauce was a production number that took all day to make—and I have not made it since that first time. This sauce is easy enough that I can foresee making it several time a year.
Karl’s Simplified Mole Poblano
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. black peppercorn
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 Tbs. pine nuts
1 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
2 tsp. corn oil
½ cup yellow onion, diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth or beer for Vegan)
½ cup peanut butter, creamy
1 Tbs. currents, minced
2 wedges Mexican chocolate (¼ tablet), chopped into small chunks
1 Tbs. extra dark chocolate (85%+)
1. If you do not keep Karl’s Four Chile Chili Powder on hand—like I do—blend the spice mix.
2. Put the cumin, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in a spice grinder and process the spices into a powder.
Tip: You may toast the cumin and coriander in a small dry pan before grinding if you wish.
3. Put the pine nuts and sesame seeds into a mortar and grind them to a smooth paste with the pestle.
Note: I tried adding the sesame seeds to the spice grinder with the spices, but they released so much oil that it turned into a paste that made it hard to get a smooth grind.
4. Heat the corn oil in an medium pan over medium heat and sauté the onions with the salt until they are starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
5. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for one minute, until fragrant.
6. Add the chili powder and spice blend to the onions and warm the spices for one minute more.
7. Stir in the tomato paste and continue cooking until the tomato paste darkens, about another minute.
8. Add about one third of the can of chicken broth to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
Tip: If you wish you may use a dark Mexican beer, instead of broth.
9. Blend in the nut/sesame paste, peanut butter, and currents into the pot.
Tip: Mincing the currents allows them to cook more quickly.
10. Cover the pot and simmer the mixture for ten minutes to meld and fully cook the ingredients.
Tip: Add more liquid if the sauce is too thick and stir frequently.
11. Remove the sauce from the heat and let the mixture cool.
12. Puree the mixture in a standing blender into a smooth sauce.
13. Pour the sauce back into the pot.
14. Use another third of the broth to rinse out the blender jar and add it to the pot.
15. Return the sauce to a low simmer and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Tip: Stir frequently so that it does not stick to the bottom and scorch.
Note: The sauce should be fairly thick, but not a paste, at this point—add more broth as necessary.
16. Break the chocolates into small chunks and stir them into the sauce.
Note: Do not let the sauce come to a full boil after adding the chocolate.
17. Continue cooking over low heat until the chocolate is melted and melded with the sauce, 5-10 minutes.
Tip: The nut pastes will absorb a lot of liquid over time. Check the consistency just before serving and add more broth, if necessary.
Note: If the sauce is too thin, you may add another tablespoon of peanut butter and continue cooking the sauce for five minutes.
18. Serve the mole warm as a sauce to pour over the pork or chicken tamales.
Note: The mole also works well as a simmer sauce.