I recently started doing the morning prep at Whole Foods for the taqueria, and I have been working my ass off, lifting, grilling, chopping and doing the job that previously 200 pound+ six foot tall men were doing. That being said, despite my exhaustion after that marathon from 6am-2pm, I decided to come home and not only make molé, but also tamales, from scratch.
For the molé, I began with a recipe that Diana Kennedy, an ex-patriot Brit who moved to Mexico in the 50’s, and is often considered to be the Julia Childs of Mexican Cuisine, created. I own one of her books, and it is a really nice resource. The book is called From My Mexican Kitchen:Techniques and Ingredients. It isn’t all recipes, but it does give you a lot of descriptions of what Mexican ingredients are (types of chiles, herbs, etc.) as well as a good ammount of recipes. I love the book, and read it almost cover to cover. I have been meaning to read her others.
The recipe that I started with was her recipe for Molé Poblano de Guajolote. I am a chronic recipe changer, so I just wanted you to see what I copied down and then see how much I changed it. Hehe.
To start, I began with (Clockwise from the top) 5 Ancho, 8 Cascabel, 5 Japonés, 2 Moritas, 8 Guajillos and in the middle 1 lonely Chipotle. I cut each one open and removed the seeds and the veins. You want to keep about 1 Tablespoon of the seeds for later. Then I heated 1/2 cup of lard (you can use oil if you want, but I really wanted to be authentic). You want to heat it until the fat is shimmery in the pan, but not smoky. Then you take each chile and fry them, literally for a few seconds in the oil. You will notice that they brighten up and puff up a little. It is neat. Be sure not to let them burn. It will make them bitter. Once they are all fried, you will need to soak all of them in a large bowl with warm water. I use a plate to keep them all under the surface. Don’t soak them for longer than 20 minutes. Once they are good and squishy, you will want to take all of them out of the water and blend them.It is going to be difficult to get the chiles blended fully. Try hard, and it helps to have a really nice blender (which I don’t), but make sure you take the time to scrape down the sides. If it won’t move, you can use some broth or water to get it moving, but it really is ideal if you don’t add very much water at this point. Tradtionally the whole process was done using a metate which is basically like a stone tablet with a flatish rolling pin, also made of stone, that is used to grind spices, chiles, corn, etc. Not many people still use them today, but it is still the best way because no moisture is added.
Next you will need to heat up 1/2 cup of lard (I reused the lard that I used for the chiles, I just strained any errant seeds and debris) and get ready to fry your chile paste. It is a little splattery, since you are adding a moist substance to a hot oil, so be careful and prepare to have to clean your stove. I scraped every last bit into the pot once the oil was hot, and I mean everything. I even dissasembled the blender to get every last morsel out. Yes, I value the chile paste.
Now, know that this is not going to look good, as evidince above. It is going to look terrible and chunky and greasy, but know that you are going to reblend everything and once you add the other ingredients, mainly the stock, it will transform.
Next, you will need to cook 4-5 medium sized tomatillos some how. I found that by putting a small ammount of water into the bottom of a sauté pan and covering it, it nicely steamed them . Once they turn from limey green to a dirty yellow green, you can throw them into the blender and puree them. The bottoms of the tomatillos will caramelize a little bit, but that is good. That is flavor country.
While the tomatillos are cooking, you can take the time to grind up your spice mix. I use my coffee grinder because I like my coffee to taste interesting. Actually, it doesn’t make a huge difference.
I toasted about 15 black peppercorns in a sauteé pan until fragrant, then the 1 Tablespoon of the chile seeds (I actually used more because I like spicy stuff), 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, 7 Tablespoons of sesame seeds (reserving 4 T for garnishing after you toast them) , and 2 cloves of garlic in their hulls (you aren’t going to blend this with the spices, you will peel them and throw them in with the tomatillos when you blend them (no big whoop if you forget, you can blend them with everything later)). Then you will want to break up two small cinnamon sticks (I use Mexican cinnamon for everything, because I like the way it breaks up so easily. It is a thinner more papery texture than the stuff I was previously used to.The hard thick stuff isn’t good for this recipe. I can really control how much I want this way). Also break up about 1 1/2 stars of star anise. Lastly, count out 10 or so cloves. Then just grind everything up. You will want to grind it pretty well, so it might take 2 batches to get everything ground finely.
After that, the chile paste from before, the spices and the tomatillo-garlic puree and the spice blend all goes in a bowl for later blending.
I also took the time to toast a good handful of Pepitas, Skin-on Almonds, a small handful of Rasins, and 3 slices of Baguette in some lard or oil. You will want a decent ammount of oil since the bread will tend to absorb a lot. Toast each ingredient individually, and scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Be sure not to burn them. The bread should be golden brown. The rasins will puff up and that is really all you want. Watch out for the pepitas, because they will pop. Also you will want to have a few Tortilla Chips (or you can fry 1-2 small tortillas of you have those too). Drain everything on paper towels to keep them from being too oily.
Next, you will want to smash up your seeds and nuts with something heavy. I used my rolling pin. You are just trying to give your blender a helping hand, so it doesn’t need to look pretty. Now, take turns adding as little stock as it takes to blend the toasted stuff smooth with the remaing chile paste and other ingredients.
P.S. We all know what this looks like, but we are ADULTS…it tastes amazing, I assure you. Once all is blended, you can return everything to the pot and start heating it up. Stir it frequently since there is a good deal of natural sugars. You don’t want to scorch your molé after all of this work. Then you will want to add about a quart of stock to your molé. I know it seems silly to avoid adding liquid that whole time before, only to add some at the end, but it is really all about getting things properly blended. Once you have everything hot it is chocolate time.
You will want to add a pretty decent ammount of chocolate to your molé. I ended up using 1 bar of the darkest chocolate I could find. It was 87%, but I also used a half tablet of Abuelita Mexican Drinking Chocolate, because who can resisit that face? Mexican chocolate is very grainy, and it has cinnamon and almonds in it. It tastes great in hot chocolate form, but it is sort of crap chocolate if you just try to eat it. It is chocked full of grainy sugar, so that is why I broke code and used the super dark stuff. Señora Kennedy advised using Ibarra, but I already had Abuelita, and they are right next to eachother on the shelf at Mexican markets, so I assume they are similar if not the same. If you know better, go for it. Now you will want to let the molé simmer for about 40 minutes. Stir it pretty frequently, but don’t be aftaid to walk away if you need to. It is at this time that you will want to season the molé with some salt. Use your judgement. I generally land on the saltier side of the scale. Also add your reserved toasted sesame seeds. If you want to save some for later, you will want to take that out now. I froze two small containers of it for later use.
If you are going to cook your turkey, chicken or pork now, you can sear it off in a hot pan or you can just toss it into the pot. Then you want to simmer it for some time before you eat. I think it is best when you reduce the sauce for a long time so that your meat is falling apart and you can eat it sort of like pulled pork. In the mean time, you can make a pot of Mexican rice to go with it. It is really easy to make, so I am not going to include a recipe (also, I didn’t take pictures of it, so DEAL..;). Either way, you have just made a pot of magic, and if you saved some you are brilliant. You can eat it with rice, you can make tamales and fill them with the meat and mole, saving some for the sauce to serve over them, you can do whatever you want. Just try it out. It isn’t one of those things that you cook all day long and then regret.