Continuing from my previous post, now I had two cups of homemade red mole paste. When compared to the store-bought Doña María™ original red mole paste (photo below, left), my paste looked much lighter (photo below, right):
I was not completely surprised, for several reasons. The first was that the traditional recipe calls for mulato, ancho and pasilla peppers; I could not find mulato, the darkest of those three, and used cascabel instead, a deep red pepper, but lighter than mulatos, nevertheless. Secondly, many people fry the ingredients until they are close to being burnt, to add a smoky flavour and a darker tone to the paste; I chose to cook to golden brown for a brighter profile. Another reason was that I used vegetable oil and water instead of lard and broth, and the amount of fat I used in general, was very conservative for mole standards, so I think the browning would tend to be less during frying and cooking.
A major difference I noticed was that the commercial paste contained much more fat than mine (in fact, the first ingredient listed on the label is “soybean oil”). This paste is ready to simply dilute in hot water or broth to obtain a ready-to-serve mole. I tried doing that with my paste, and after a few minutes of cooking in water, the resulting sauce was darker, but still not as dark as the Doña María™ paste, and the consistency felt dull, almost slimy. My second try was to warm up some vegetable oil in a pot, over medium heat; I added my mole paste, and fried it for a little while. I had to stir constantly so it would not burn, but it only took about one minute for the paste to turn really fragrant and very dark, with a crispier texture; this time the resulting paste looked very close not only to its commercial counterpart, but resembled some artisanal pastes I have seen at Mexican markets. Browning (darkening) occurred when frying with oil, whereas cooking with water was mainly steaming the ingredients in the paste. In the photo below, samples of my paste: out of the jar (left); cooked in water (middle), and fried (right), illustrate how variations in fat content and cooking time created a range of tones and textures of the paste:
It is often said that mole is a vagrant dish, and recipes are but a futile attempt to encase the magic of cooking a batch of these unique sauces from scratch, somewhat in the sense that each bunch of peppers, spices and other ingredients, will be slightly different every time, depending on location, season of year, etc., but mainly because cooks will add their own touch as they season and taste their concoctions at different stages of the process. Some chefs describe it as a haunting experience, and have declared themselves addicted to exploring new iterations of their moles. It is a good idea to closely follow a recipe for the first attempt, to learn the techniques and basic steps, and then modify it for the second and subsequent batches, according to personal taste and availability of ingredients. For my next batch, I will either add more fat and cooking time before transferring to bottles to get a darker paste that may be directly diluted with liquid before serving, or keep it the way it is and just fry the paste in a little fat before diluting with liquid, as follows:
To prepare red mole from my mole paste: warm up some vegetable oil or lard (about 1/2 tablespoon for each portion) in a pot, over medium heat; add mole paste (1/4 cup for each portion). Cook, stirring constantly (photo below, left); continue cooking until it turns fragrant and dark, then add hot water or broth (about 1/4 cup per portion, or more, for a runnier consistency, photo below, centre). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until desired consistency (thick sauce) is reached (photo below, right):
This red mole is now ready to use in many applications, such as stews, enchiladas, tamales, etc. The most traditional red mole dish is “Mole de pavo con arroz a la Mexicana” (Turkey in Mole with Mexican Style Rice”), although chicken is a more popular choice of meat these days (shown in the photo at the top of the post.)
Chicken in Red Mole with Mexican Style Rice –
Pollo en mole rojo con arroz a la Mexicana
Ingredients (for four portions)
4 chicken quarters (thigh and leg, or half breasts); bone-in, skin-on
1 piece onion
1 clove garlic
Salt, to taste
2 cups prepared red mole (see printable recipe, above, or click here for detailed instructions)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seed
1 batch Mexican Style Rice (see printable recipe, above, or click here for detailed instructions)
Warm corn tortillas, to serve
Place chicken pieces, onion, garlic and salt in a pot; add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium; skim off foam from the top, cover, and cook until chicken is completely cooked. Remove chicken from pot, remove skin from chicken (optional); discard skin and reserve chicken pieces. Strain broth, discarding solids and reserving about one cup of the liquid. Return chicken pieces to the pot with reserved broth, and pour prepared mole:
Stir to mix broth and mole, coating chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes before serving. Plate portions of chicken covered with mole, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, with a portion of rice on the side, and serve with warm corn tortillas:
The mole has penetrated the chicken meat slightly, keeping it moist and tender. a forkful of chicken, mole and rice create a perfectly balanced and wonderful fiesta of flavours for the palate.
I have noticed that the flavours in my mole have been maturing and blending as the paste is aging in the fridge, improving the overall flavour of each batch of prepared mole; this is a well known effect for other complex dishes, such stews and soups. A story of applying this concept to the extreme, explains how a Mexican chef had kept his original mole paste for 1,000 days (at the time the article was published), by saving a base of it and adding fresh mole; he calls the reserved paste the mole madre – mother mole not unlike the mother dough used in bakery for sour dough breads.
I am joining Fiesta Friday #260 graciously hosted by Angie @ Fiesta Friday; this week with co-hosts Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau (Mollie’s featured salad this week looks almost Mexican, with beets, nuts and citrus in the ingredients) and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens (Diann’s recent posts do feature Mexican food! Check out her tongue tacos and creamy green salsa).