Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mole Adventure (the sauce, that is . . . )

I have always wanted to learn to make mole, and I finally got my chance!  The occasion?  Our May Supper Club, the theme of which was Mexican cuisine, in honor of Cinco de Mayo!  It was also my first opportunity to use my new Rick Bayliss cookbook, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.  I’m going to enjoy this cookbook immensely, I know.  Bayliss’s recipe instructions are very clear and easy to follow, even when the recipe is complex, and his explanatory notes about the history and regional variations of the dishes are a delight to read.  

For my Supper Club selection, I decided to make Bayliss’s Ayocotes en Coloradito, or Runner Beans in Brick-Red Mole.  Bayliss describes this dish is a Oaxacan specialty, pairing one of the region’s simpler moles with flavorful heirloom beans.  The mole sauce was one of the easier ones (albeit time consuming), and can be used with any number of other dishes.  I can’t wait to make it again!

My first step was locating the ingredients.  As is true in many parts of California, we are fortunate here in Sonoma to have access to a host of Mexican ingredients in grocery stores and specialty Mexican markets.  At one such local Mexican market, I found the dried ancho and guajillo chiles I needed in bulk, so I was able to buy just the amount I needed.  I also picked up Mexican canela cinnamon, which the folks at Rancho Gordo describe as softer and less astringent, warmer and more woodsy than cinnamon from cassia bark.  I also tracked down some Mexican chocolate, and Mexican oregano, again described by Rancho Gordo as similar to European oregano, but with a slight citrus twist.  Finally I needed the Ayocotes, or heirloom scarlet runner beans, which I picked up at Rancho Gordo’s store in Napa.  Add a couple of ripe tomatoes plus the remaining ingredients which I always have on hand, and I was ready to begin!

I sliced open my dried chiles, and removed the seeds and stems.  I heated a skillet without oil, opened up the chiles to flatten them, and toasted them briefly before popping them into hot water for 30 minutes to rehydrate.  Then I placed some foil over half my skillet, and put my tomatoes on it to toast.  I toasted some unpeeled garlic on the unfoiled part of the hot skillet.  I toasted both for about 10 minutes until they were blackened.  I peeled the garlic and the tomatoes, and popped them into my blender.  I toasted some sesame seeds next, rolling them around in the pan until they were browned, and added them to the blender.  I drained the chiles and added them to the blender too.  Last into the blender were the cinnamon, oregano, chocolate, some black pepper and 1 ½ cups chicken broth, and I hit the puree button.  This next bit required elbow grease.  I put my small mesh strainer over a big bowl and poured in the contents of the blender.  Then I took a large spoon and pressed and pressed with all my might until I got as much liquid out of the blended concoction as I could, because I didn’t want to miss a delicious drop!


Look at that brick red color!
Next, I heated olive oil in a saucepan.  (I’m pretty squeamish about lard from a health standpoint, and did not use it, although Bayliss lauds the flavor it adds.  I used his oil substitute instead.)  The mole sauce went into the saucepan with more broth, and simmered for an hour or so.  Then I seasoned with salt and sugar.

Meanwhile I cooked the runner beans in water as directed – they took about 2 ½ hours.  I drained them, poured them into my mole sauce, corrected the seasonings, and whisked them off to my Supper Club, where they were a big hit!

By the way, here was the lineup of the rest of our fabulous meal!

Fresh guacamole three ways
A delicious chorizo cheese dip with chips
Pasilla chiles stuffed w goat cheese
Pork Roasted in Banana Leaves
Mexican Rice and fresh homemade tortillas, of course!
Pastel de tres leches
(Note: there was also the special treat of Bon Vivant’s fabulous caviar torte – not Mexican, but ever amazing and delicious!)

Good times, good food!


Bon Vivant said...

Best. Beans. Ever.

Daphne said...

Thanks Bon V! I loved them too, I'm gonna make them again . . and again . .

Mock Turtle said...

Damn! I love mole but have only ever attempted it once. I used a crockpot recipe and spent much time roasting bell peppers etc.

It came out all right but nothing like my Grandmother's mole. One of my good friends gave me a cookbook called "My Mexico" which has a whole host of mole recipes. I should try a couple of them.