Home Cooking

Red Mole: Five Hours of Love

August 21 2012 - 1:30 PM

Mae West says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”

I’m trying to think of other instances where you trade hours of toil and effort for moments of enjoyment. We wait in line for a roller coaster ride…that might be the best “bang for your buck” example. You work all week for the weekend…that’s trite. I think cooking is a good example, but in reality, the time it takes to make that pain-in-the-ass recipe seems to be half the reward. Especially when it comes to mole.

The sauce is notoriously time consuming and needs constant stirring, mixing, blending, searing, straining and so on. The instructions break down into two parts for most of the process. It dirties every kitchen utensil you have, and smokes up your entire house. My dog went into convulsions, which brought my wife to hysterics and they both had to go outside. It was kind of funny.

This is the second time that I’ve made this type of sauce. It might be the only dish where I follow a recipe. The first time I started to cook a couple of hours before guests arrived and we were all good and loaded by the time it was ready to eat…sometime around 10 p.m. But it was really tasty.

This time I tried a more traditional recipe. Raisins instead of apricots and almonds instead of pine nuts (I think it was pine nuts). I used Lugar dark chocolate and unfortunately used white sugar instead of Mexican sugar since I couldn’t find it (even at La Unica).

In a nutshell you have two mixes – one is the dried peppers, seeded and stemmed. Fried and then rehydrated. Then pureed. Then strained (big pain). Then the puree is fried and darkened.

This happens while you throw the tomatillos under the broiler, roast sesame seeds, and then add them together with
almonds, raisins, salt, pepper, cloves, anise and cinnamon. Puree that, then strain it (again, big pain).

Then you mix the two sauces together and cook until they get really pasty. Then add your water (in my case 12 cups- you go mole, you go big). Then you simmer for at least 45 minutes.

It doesn’t sound like much, but seeding and stemming and frying about 50+ peppers is a pain. And that’s only step one.

But I can say the dark, nut-brown lard is incredibly nice compared to the white stuff, and that there’s nothing so savory as the aroma of mulato peppers being fried up…except maybe the dried pasillas still oily on the inside.

The mole turned out great, but it certainly didn’t reflect the amount of effort. It’s a sauce and, unfortunately, America is all about the protein. A tablespoon or two of mole doesn’t do it. It’s a soup people. Think of it as a cheese sauce. The chicken is a vehicle… The chicken is there as a utensil to drench in sauce.

I don’t know who exactly says this but I think I’ve heard it before… the hardest things to do are the things most worth doing.