So, by popular vote (curiously in my absence) my family decided (read: conspired) that I would make mole for Xmess dinner. The interesting thing about making mole is that I never make it the same way twice, largely due to fluctuations in the availability of ingredients, but also in the spirit of experimentation. That spirit of experimentation, by the way, is what makes me a passable ecologist and chef, yet a poor chemist and baker. Some recipes are probably meant to be followed. Fortunately, this is not one of them.

Oh and let me make a gringo disclaimer here, this is probably not the most authentic recipe in the world. My friends don’t seem to care, though.

The basics:
A large can of ground or pureed tomatoes or the fresh equivalent
A decent sized sweet onion
One or two tabs of “Mexican” (Abuelita is good) Chocolate, depending on desired sweetness. I usually only add one, using other ingredients for additional sweetness.
One or more tablespoons of instant coffee (or really fine grounds), depending on desired bitterness.
Dried or canned peppers (ancho, pasilla, mulato, chipotle). If using dried, soak overnight. These are mostly smokey peppers, but also add a bit of spice, especially the chipotles. I usually use a handful of dried peppers or one small can.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice to taste. This is a sweet sauce, but don’t turn it into Xmas cookie dough. Have some restraint here.

Puree tomatoes, peppers and onion in food processor. Bring to boil, add other ingredients. Simmer for at least one hour. I usually make a double or triple recipe in a really big pot and freeze in single serving containers. This can spend several months in the freezer with no problem.

Pretty basic. The creativity comes in with what else you add. Things that I’ve tried with success include plantains (highly recommended), raisins, almonds, peanuts, cashews, mango juice, cumin, vegetable bouillon, sweetened lime juice and even tahini. I generally puree everything. I think traditionally it would have a lot of meat drippings in it, but with my freegetarianism and so many veggie friends, I don’t usually do that, which is why the nuts, bouillon and/or tahini are good to add some savory taste. To make my brother happy at Xmess, we broiled some chicken and served the mole on that, with fresh cilantro, chihuahua cheese and corn tortillas. For my vegocentric Durhamites, I usually serve it over cheese enchiladas. To get ideas for additional things to add, I surf internet recipes. Actually I do that for most recipes, but especially for this one. For reference, this is pretty much a mole poblano, as there are moles of many kinds out there, including red, yellow and green ones. Not to say that one couldn’t get ideas from there as well.

Rice and beans are pretty standard side dishes here. I especially recommend refrying a can of black beans in olive oil with a little garlic and salt, which is quick and easy, but is a lot nicer than canned refried beans. Just fry those suckers on medium heat, stirring vigorously, until they soften, split and you get the mushiness you desire. It takes a decent amount of oil, but start with a small amount and add as you go. Add the garlic and salt to taste right near the end of the process.

I just noticed that most of the instructions above are pretty vague, but I think that’s the point I was making to begin with. Some things you only learn by doing. This ain’t rocket science, mistakes are OK. Oh and when you experiment like this, always have a frozen pizza in the fridge–just in case you royally screw up.


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