My Most Recent Mole Sauce

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K Kruger

Senior Cook
Jan 10, 2005
Okeechobee, Fla
Enchiladas are typically made with meat or fowl stewed in water with spices and aromatics. The resulting stock is used in making the sauce and the meat is shredded for filling tortillas. Moles are made similarly though sometimes roasted meat or meat browned in lard is used instead of stewed. For typical moles the meat is served in the sauce, the tortillas are served on the side. Enchiladas are great with smoked or roasted meats or fowl and perfect for Q leftovers, as are moles.

Though mole sauces are fairly involved they are fun to make (I think so anyway). A mole sauce can be used to reheat leftover smoked meats or fowl very effectively (and deliciously; a favorite is hunks or slabs of smoked turkey breast). If you prefer, you can use a mole sauce for making enchiladas. Mole sauces are varied though much more complex and deeply flavored than enchilada sauces, and are also based on dried chilies with tomatoes, onions, and garlic, and additionally flavored and thickened with one or more of sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, toasted bread and tortillas; spices often include cinnamon, clove, allspice, peppercorns, avocado or bay leaf, and cumin; chocolate is often used for added depth, and sweeteners include raisins, sugar, and plantain or banana. Mole pastes are available in lieu of making a sauce yourself. You mix the paste with broth or water on the stove. Pastes benefit from additions. The recipe below will give you some ideas on what you might use to doctor a reconstituted paste if you choose to go that route.

Mole Sauce

Though you can do this without pepitas, try to find them. They’re available at most Hispanic markets, often the Mexican spice section of supermarkets, Trader Joes’s, and most health food stores. Pecans make a good substitution for one of the nuts, if necessary. Though some cooks fry everything in lard, I toast the dry items in a dry pan and fry the moist items in a little lard or oil. This avoids the somewhat greasy, heavier consistency of strictly-lard moles. The effort here is to create a complex, multi-layered flavor, with no single item predominant. A splash of vinegar can be used at the end to intensify the flavor—be sparing if you choose to use it. Additionally, while naturally sweet items like ripe plantain, raisins and a sugar are called for in the recipe to balance the dry acidity of the peppers, be careful with the sugar. In my opinion, moles are best when not too sweet. Shoot for a balance: Taste as you go.

16 whole dried peppers (I used a mix of Chiles Negros, New Mexicos, Anchos, and Guajillos), washed in cool water and dried well

2-3 Chiles de Arbol, washed in cool water, dried well

3 med-large tomatoes

6 c chicken stock

2 small onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 c sesame seeds

1/2 c slivered almonds

1/2 c peanuts, chopped

1/2 c pine nuts

1/2 c pepitas (hulled, raw pumpkin seeds)

1 corn tortilla, torn into 4 or 5 pieces

2 slices white bread (I used slices from an Italian artisan loaf; 4-5 slices from a baguette work well)

2 ripe plantains (plantains are only ripe when their yellow skins are at least half blackened, if green or all yellow they are not yet ripe) or use ripe bananas, sliced in 1” pieces

1/4 c currants (or use black raisins)

1 large avocado leaf (or substitute 3 bay leaves—different flavor but still very good)

lard or oil (I used e.v. olive oil for this mole; out of decent lard)

1/2 stick Mexican cinnamon (canela), or 2 tsp powder

5 cloves

1 tsp cumin seed or powder

1 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano

about 2 Tbls piloncillo (or use light or dark Muskovado or brown sugar)

about 3 Tbls unsweetened cocoa (normally I use Mexican chocolate—Ibarra or Abuelito, chopped—but I was out. Or use unsweetened baker’s chocolate.)


vinegar (optional)

Remove and discard the stems from the chilies, split them with your fingers, and discard the seeds that fall out by themselves (optional, you can keep all the seeds if you wish). Toast them in a single layer (in batches if necessary) in a large sauté pan over med-high heat, till toasted and fragrant, 2-3 min, tossing periodically. Remove them to a bowl, cover with boiling water, and allow to re-hydrate, about an hour. (It can be helpful to lay a loose piece of plastic wrap directly on the peppers and place a bowl, plate, or other weight on top.)

Set another sauté pan over med-high heat and add a little oil or lard to the pan. Fry the tomatoes whole, till the skins blacken a bit, rolling them around periodically; cut them in a few pieces each; transfer to a blender. Add a little more oil to the pan; sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, till lightly browned, about 12-15 min. Add the garlic; cook 3 min more, stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl, not the blender; return the pan to the heat. Meanwhile, in the same pan that you used for the chilies, still dry and on med-high heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring nearly constantly, till the seeds are lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 min, depending on their moisture and oil content; remove to the blender with the tomatoes.

In the dry pan toast the nuts and seeds in succession till lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 min each (this depends on which you’re doing); stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove each to the bowl with the onions.

Meanwhile, add a little oil to the pan you used for the tomatoes and fry the plantain slices, stirring occasionally, till just starting to brown in spots, 6-7 min; add a little more oil and the raisins and cook till the raisins plump up a bit, a few min more. Remove to the bowl with the onions. Without adding more oil, toast the bread slices and tortilla pieces till lightly browned and fragrant, turning occasionally; remove to the bowl with the onions.

In the dry pan, meanwhile, toast the avocado leaf (or bay leaves) till fragrant, about 2 min; remove to the bowl with the onions. In this same pan, toast the cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and oregano, till fragrant, about 30-45 secs. Remove to the bowl with the onions.

Set a large pot on the stove. Drain the re-hydrated peppers and place some of them in the blender with the tomatoes and sesame seeds. Pour in a little of the chicken stock and turn on the blender; purée, stopping the blender periodically to push any solids down toward the blades, till blended very well. Pour into the pot through a medium sieve to remove any extraneous skin or seeds. Purée the rest of the peppers well, adding stock as necessary; strain into the pot. Rinse the blender briefly. Purée the contents of the onion bowl in batches, adding stock as needed to facilitate blending (you should end up using all the stock), blending very well till smooth; pour into the pot without straining. Place the pot over med-high heat and bring just to a low boil. Add the sugar and chocolate, stirring well till completely melted or dissolved. Add a little salt.

Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, till the flavors blend and the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream. Adjust the salt; adjust the balance with sugar and/or vinegar. You’re done.

The sauce can be used as is, or you can thin some of it with stock for use as an enchilada sauce, or as a sauce to pour over cooked meats. I often use it a bit thinned and add leftover Q’d meats for reheating. When the meat is hot I remove it, then reduce the sauce over high heat till it’s thickened a bit.

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