The Pantry

Hello, Mole: Where have you been all my life?

It’s been downhill ever since my first experience with mole. Maybe I am eating at all the wrong places, but the first was so delicious that every dish I’ve had it with since has not measured up.

After high school, I found myself in central Mexico, studying Spanish while living with a local elderly couple. Rosa did catering out of her home, and the kitchen was always overflowing with classic Mexican dishes and steaming corn tortillas. One weekday, after a six-hour Spanish session, I came home to a dinner of chicken mole made from scratch by Rosa’s cousin.  Rosa told me about the complex and lengthy preparation, the care and effort put into the process. I spooned it over the closest bowl of rice, enjoying every bite of the warm, spicy sauce.

“Quieres mas, hija?” she asked.

Usually too full of her wonderful food to take a second helping, I surprised her in the affirmative, “Si! Por fis, está bien riquisimo!”

Mole is a classic Mexican sauce, rich in history and flavor. So what is in mole? It’s a complex mixture of various chilies, bittersweet chocolate, nutmeats, dried fruits, and spices blended and simmered until thick and fragrant. Recipes boast upwards of 20 ingredients, and it takes quite a bit of prep work and cooking time. The mole recipe can vary regionally or according to the cook, from mole verde to the mole colorado of Oaxaca.

An important part of Mexican food heritage, mole has even earned its own festival in Puebla. Oaxaca rivals Puebla, and has earned the name “Land of the Seven Moles”. Oacaxa’s moles range from mole negro, for its  dark-chocolate color and depth of flavor, to mole verde, which is a light and fresh sauce made with tomatillos.

Meld the flavors of mole into other dishes –  meaty soups, black bean pumpkin chili and chicken spice rubs.

What’s the most complex recipe you’ve ever attempted?

– Alivia Duran


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