Has it all come full circle?!
I've been fiddling with Mole Poblano for the past few weeks and it's taken me all the way back to this spot:
That's the awesomely chaotic menu board at a comida corrida in Cozumel, about half a block from where I lived.
See that Pollo Mole on the top left?
That's been my reference point for Mole Poblano ever since. It was served over a roasted chicken breast and the flavor was completely new to me -- definitely a massive upgrade compared to the Mexican food I grew up with in the States.
And I'm thrilled to finally have that unique, otherworldly flavor in my home kitchen 🙂
I didn't get close to that long lost Cozumel flavor until I got some Mulato chiles in the house.
Mulatos are similar to Anchos, but they're left on the vine a bit longer, eventually ripening to a darker brown color. That additional time on the vine gives them a big, complex flavor that tastes familiar to me.
You can see the chiles' difference in color in this pic:
It's subtle but the reddish tint of the Ancho on the right is the dead giveaway. You'll notice the color difference even more after you reconstitute them.
Normally I'm quite flexible on dried chiles, but Mole Poblano is a bit different. This Holy Trinity of dried chiles is the undeniable flavor base for the recipe and I don't think there are good substitutes for them.
So I think it's worth it to track down these chiles if you're going to spend an afternoon making this sauce. Here are some good spots to buy dried chiles online. For a Mole sauce that's a bit more flexible with the chile combo see the Mole Coloradito.
I'm using 8 oz. of dried chiles for this recipe.
That equates to:
FYI the first iterations of this recipe used 4 oz. of dried chiles, but their flavor was getting lost in the final product. Over time I've decreased the competing flavors (tomatoes, seeds) and increased the dried chile amount to keep them as the star attraction.
That's why there's no fudging on the dried chile combo as the whole point is to keep their unique flavor at the forefront!
As usual, I start by de-stemming and de-seeding the dried chiles. If there are dusty spots on the chiles you can wipe them off with a damp paper towel.
I like to give these a quick roast in the oven -- 1-2 minutes at 400F.
This will wake up some dormant flavors, and the oven makes it convenient for large batches of chiles. Keep in mind that you can always flash roast them in a skillet for 15-30 seconds per side while pressing down with a spatula.
Once roasted you can add them to a bowl, cover them with the hottest tap water you've got, and let them reconstitute for 20-30 minutes.
I also plop the tomatoes in the oven for convenience, but you could roast these on the stovetop as well.
The tomatoes need about 25-30 minutes in the oven to fully roast, but I usually just grab 'em when I need 'em.
As the tomatoes roast you can start working on the other ingredients.
Roughly chop 1/2 onion and peel 6 garlic cloves, adding them to a medium-heat skillet along with a glug of oil.
Cook until the onion is starting to brown. I usually just leave the garlic cloves whole knowing that all of this will be blended together eventually.
Once cooked you can put this mixture in a blender and start gathering the spices.
Here's what I used for this batch:
On the left in the above pic:
1/3 cup sesame seeds
8 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon aniseeds
And on the right:
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
I really like adding aniseed to this sauce as it gives the chile combo some real depth. Aniseed has a distinct licorice flavor. Difference between Aniseed and Star Anise.
I usually toast the sesame seeds and whole spices until the seeds are browning:
And then add the ground spices and give 'em just a few seconds over the heat.
Then all of this gets combined in a spice grinder. You could also use a molcajete or food processor to grind them into a fine powder.
By now the dried chiles will be reconstituted, but before you drain them be sure to take a taste of their soaking liquid:
Some of you will like the earthy, astringent flavor of the soaking liquid — and some of you will think it tastes bitter.
It always tastes bitter to me, so I will typically use stock to liquefy Mole sauces. You can consider this personal preference though — feel free to use the soaking liquid if it works for your palate.
Add the drained, reconstituted chiles to the blender along with a 2 cups of stock (or their soaking liquid). The onion-garlic mixture should already be in the blender.
Give it a good whirl. You can always add more liquid if it's not combining readily. You'll need around 4-5 cups for the entire recipe -- I usually just keep track of what I add during the blend and then add the rest for the simmer.
And now take a taste!
If you're like me you'll be massively triggered by the flavor -- but in a good way! It's such a rich, complex flavor and it's the heart and soul of this sauce.
Add the roasted tomatoes to the blender and give it a whirl. And feel free to taste test along the way here -- it's awesome to see how the flavor develops as you add the remaining ingredients.
Next we'll add the finely ground spices along with:
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup almonds
I should mention that this recipe is on the lower threshold of the sweet scale.
I used 2 tablespoons of raisins and 2 oz. of chocolate (added later) for just a hint of sweetness. But you can always double these amounts for a sweeter batch.
I also added a single teaspoon of salt at this point. Note that the salt amount will depend on which stock you use. I used this homemade chicken stock.
Then we'll quickly fry up the blended Mole sauce in some lard (or oil).
You can also add the remaining stock at this point.
I used 5 cups stock total for this batch -- 2 were added to the blender and the remaining 3 were added to the saucepan. If your blender has sauce stuck to the sides then swish around some stock in it to gobble up the leftover bits.
Once it's up to temp you can add the chocolate.
That’s about 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 oz.) and that’s probably the bare minimum you’ll need to actually taste the chocolate.
Feel free to add more if you want a sweeter batch. You can also use Mexican chocolate.
By the way, Mole sauces on the stovetop will paint your ceiling if you let them! Be prepared with a lid or foil to prevent this, or if available use a splatter guard:
Let this simmer over low heat for a couple minutes and then take a final taste for salt. I added another generous pinch to this batch.
Letting it simmer longer will thicken it up and concentrate the flavor slightly, but at this point I am usually thrilled and just start eating it 🙂
Hello Mole Poblano!
You can strain the sauce to give it a silky, enchanting appearance, but it won't affect the flavor so you can consider it optional. It does take some effort, so if I'm hungry I skip the straining.
Mole Poblano is typically served with lighter meats, usually chicken and turkey. Drenching a roasted chicken breast is a good option, but for this batch I made some impromptu Enmoladas.
That's shredded chicken and cheese inside corn tortillas that were crisped up in the oven for 10 minutes, and then drenched in the Mole Poblano sauce.
Even a simple serving style like this is overwhelmingly delicious because of your homemade Mole sauce 🙂
Yes, Mole Poblano will take some effort, but I've found it to be quite forgiving once you get the proper chile combo in place.
It's a real treat and I hope you try it out at some point. Or you can just take a trip to Cozumel 🙂
- 6-7 Ancho dried chiles
- 6-7 Mulato dried chiles
- 5-6 Pasilla dried chiles
- 1/2 onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2-3 Roma tomatoes
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 2 oz. chocolate (1/3 cup chocolate chips)
- 4-5 cups stock
- 2 tablespoons lard (or oil)
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- Wipe off any dusty crevasses on the dried chiles. De-stem and de-seed the chiles, but don't worry about getting rid of every last seed.
- Roast the chile pieces for 1-2 minutes in a 400F oven. Alternatively, you can flash roast them in a skillet on the stovetop for 15-30 seconds per side. Once roasted, add the chile pieces to a bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let the chiles reconstitute for 20-30 minutes. If they float to the surface you can use a small bowl or plate to keep them submerged.
- Rinse and de-stem 2-3 Roma tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes.
- Roughly chop 1/2 onion and peel 6 garlic cloves. Add a glug of oil to a skillet over medium heat and saute the onions and whole garlic cloves until lightly browned. Once cooked, add the onion-garlic mixture to the blender.
- Preheat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup sesame seeds, 8 whole cloves, 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns to the skillet. Toast until the sesame seeds are turning golden brown, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, add the powdered spices to the skillet (1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano) and cook briefly. Add the mixture to a food processor or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder, setting it aside until you need it.
- By now the chiles are reconstituted. Take a taste of the chiles' soaking liquid. If you like it then you can use it to liquefy the sauce. If it tastes bitter to you then use stock to liquefy the sauce -- I used stock for this batch.
- Drain the dried chiles and add them to the blender along with 2 cups of stock (or soaking liquid). The onion-garlic mixture should already be in the blender. Combine well. It's worth it to take a taste at every step along the way, starting now!
- Add the roasted tomatoes to the blender and combine well.
- Add the finely ground spice mixture to the blender and combine well. I also added another splash of stock at this point. You'll need 4-5 cups total for the recipe -- I usually just keep track of what I add when blending and then add the rest for the simmer.
- Add 2 tablespoons raisins, 1/4 cup almonds and 1 teaspoon salt. Combine well.
- Add 2 tablespoons lard (or oil) to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once heated add the Mole sauce. Cook briefly and at this point you can add any additional stock that was not added to the blender. Use a splatter screen if you have one, otherwise a lid or foil will do the job.
- Once heated through add 2 oz. chocolate (optional). I used 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, but you can use Mexican chocolate if you want. For a sweeter batch you can double or triple the chocolate amount.
- Once the chocolate is incorporated into the sauce take a final taste for seasoning. I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch, but keep in mind this will depend on which stock you use.
- Serve immediately or simmer longer if you want to thicken it up. You can optionally strain the sauce at this point.
- I kept it simple and made some impromptu Enmoladas. I rolled some cooked, shredded chicken and cheese in corn tortillas, crisped them up in the oven, and drenched them in the Mole Poblano sauce.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container where it will keep for a few days.
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