Few foods have a comparably difficult stigma attached to them like traditional Mexican mole. The rich and complex sauce consisting of dried chiles, herbs, spices, nuts, vegetables, and more confounds American cooks from coast to coast. Well, I’m here to say it’s actually not that complicated if we break the ingredients down into a few simple categories. Check out the step-by-step process in our latest Patreon video!
We’re all looking for something else to do with our leftover Thanksgiving turkey besides the traditional pot pie, turkey sandwich, or soup. With the things in your fridge and a few pantry staples, you can pretty simply whip up a mole that is unique, complex, and delicious.
Vegetables/aromatics: Almost every sauce ever starts with onions and garlic. We also used carrots, tomatillos, and tomatoes. If you have celery left over from your stuffing, that’s great. Sweet potato or winter squash in the bottom of your pantry, throw it in there. We’re also going to throw our dried fruit in this category as well. Normally moles call for raisins but we had extra dried cranberries left over from Thanksgiving and they worked great. The veggie category brings a baseline flavor and some fibrous body to our sauce once we puree. We char the veggies in our firebox for a little extra smokiness.
Nuts/seeds: This recipe used pecans and sesame seeds but everything from peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds would work. The nuts will thicken our pureed sauce as well as add a roundness and depth of flavor.
Spices: We use a mix of whole and ground spices with a little bit of dried herbs. Fall spices like cinnamon and allspice bring a complexity and echo the nutty flavors. Cumin, ancho powder, and marjoram add an earthiness to our mole. Whatever spices used here, just don’t go too heavy on any single one or it may overpower the sauce. The goal here is balance.
Dried chiles: Along with corn, beans, and rice, chiles are a pillar of Mexican cuisine. Most moles are defined by the types of chiles used. Here we used cascabel and New Mexico chiles (because that’s what we had), but guajillo, ancho, chipotle, or California would all be welcome additions to the pepper party. Same with the spices, the goal is balance. Just avoid using too much of any that are too spicy (chile de arbol, chipotle) because, again, that could overpower the sauce.
Finishers: Like I mentioned in the video, Mexican cuisine has a tendency to break all the rules people like me learned in culinary school. A traditional French chef would never completely burn a piece of starch and and add it to the sauce, but here, it works. The burnt bread or tortilla adds an underlying bitterness and a nice dark color to our mole. The chocolate brings sweetness, complexity, umami, and a little more bitterness with it as well. Other finishers could be: charred fruit, a hard cheese like parmesan, or some crushed pretzels.
All these ingredients seem like they are just thrown together but when they are incorporated in the right way and in the right amounts the result is a beautiful and delicious sauce that instantly elevates something bland like turkey or chicken to a next level dish.
L&L Mole “Inautentico”
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
2 carrots, peeled and chunked
4 tomatillos, husked
1 pt cherry tomatoes
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 C rendered turkey fat
2 C chopped pecans
1 C sesame seeds
1/4 C each marjoram, ancho powder, mustard powder, cumin, paprika
2 cinnamon sticks
2 TB fennel seed
4 allspice berries
6 each dried chile pods New Mexico and Cascabel
1 potato bun, burnt
1 C chocolate chips
1 gal water
Char all the vegetables in a hot oven or directly over coals.
In a large sauce pot, melt the turkey fat and cook the charred veggies until they are all softened but not caramelized. Once properly sweated, add the nuts and saute until lightly browned and aromatic.
Add the spices and chile pods and cook until they have bloomed and softened respectively, about 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
Once the spices and chiles are fragrant, add the burnt potato bun and cook for another minute or so until it has softened and absorbed some of the cooking fat.
Add water, bring to a boil, and cook for another twenty or so minutes until all the veggies and chiles are soft.
Puree with an immersion blender and then batch puree in a high speed blender to homogenize all the nuts, vegetables, and chile pods. In the last two puree batches, add the chocolate chips and blend until melted and incorporated.
Now that everything has been added, cooked, and pureed. Check for thickness. It should be about the thickness of tomato soup. Taste and season with salt.
This sauce can be added to picked turkey or chicken, ladled on top of enchiladas, or used as poaching liquid for seafood.