Hooray for mole (pronounced MOH- lay)!
If you’ve never feasted on mole poblano, you must. It is so beloved it is considered the national dish of Mexico. Mole poblano is a dark, rich, thick, sauce served over chicken or turkey – it’s both bitter and spicy from toasted, ground chiles and also smoothly sumptuous from ground nuts, sesame seeds, spices and bitter chocolate. Yes, chocolate!
Traditionally, when made from scratch, making mole poblano is a labor intensive affair that includes a long, long list of ingredients and a lot of toasting, grinding and frying. For this reason, from-scratch mole is typically reserved for special occasions such as weddings and religious holidays. We, however, have the modern convenience of Dona Maria’s mole paste. So, you can make this dish on a whim.
But, first, feed your mind . . . The word “mole,” in its most general sense refers to a sauce and it’s not always thick or dark; it can be also be green, red, yellow and black. In Mexico, the states best known for moles are typically Puebla and Oaxaca. Fortunately, I’ve eaten mole in both states. Oaxaca, the Land of the Seven Moles, was my favorite.
Mole poblano hails from the mountainous region of Puebla, Mexico and its exact origin is uncertain. The ingredients and cooking techniques used to make this dish are linked to both the Old and New World. While chiles, tomatoes, peanuts and chocolate are native to Mexico’s pre-Spanish cookery (read about the origin of chocolate); the Spanish introduced several Asian spices they obtained from spice-route commerce including sesame seeds, cumin, cinnamon, anise and black pepper.
Regardless, the somewhat unusual blend of chiles, spices and chocolate, makes for a luxurious savory sauce for a special occasion or not. Note: this dish freezes well and leftover sauce can be used to make enchiladas, as a filling for tamales, over rice and beans, or whatever tickles your tastebuds. Let me know if you have another way you modify mole paste or how you use leftover mole sauce.
Tidbits on Chocolate:
- Chocolate has long been considered an aphrodisiac, a quality that made for some controversy among Catholics who consumed it during Lent.
- Scientific research is uncertain as to chocolate’s aphrodisiatic properties. However, chocolate has become an essential ingredient in the act of seduction.