My first mole
Building on my new-found tortilla-making skills, I decided to expand my experience of Mexican cuisine by making mole, the “national dish of Mexico,” according to Rick Bayless. I used Bayless’s recipe for Classic Red Mole with Turkey from Mexico One Plate at a Time, although there seems to be some debate as to whether it is an “authentic” mole rojo, in light of its inclusion of chocolate. Questions of authenticity aside, I thought the dish was delicious, served with a side of pressure-cooked pinto beans and fresh tortillas.
Making mole is a laborious process, involving frying, steeping, and pureeing the various ingredients, before frying them again, simmering them and finally using them as a braising liquid for the meat. Fortunately, it can be spread out over a couple of days, and the sauce can be frozen. The starring ingredient, as often seems to be the case in Mexican cuisine, is chillis. This Bayless version calls for three different varieties of dried chillis (ancho, pasilla and mulato), all of which were easily available in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
In fact, it would seem that the chillis are what give the sauce its characteristic texture: coinciding nicely with my growing interest in Mexican cuisine, the latest issue of Saveur has an endearing feature article on Zacatecan cuisine, and notes that the silky texture of chilli-based sauces comes from the pectin released in the soaking process. A quick check of McGee confirms that the many members of the pepper family are rich in pectin.
Achieving that texture also depends pretty heavily on the ability of your blender to puree the chillis, plus the other fruits, nuts and seeds in the ingredient list – no easy feat. After scraping down the sides of my blender and running it again for the umpteenth time, I was desperately yearning for a high-powered Vita-Mix! Until I can scrape together the cash for that, though, I just keep repeating: The strainer is your friend…