Given a combination of a very sore throat and extremely cold temperatures, I wasn't quite up for the DuPont Circle Farmer's Market Sunday morning. Dear husband suggested I was nuts for even mentioning it as I miserably crawled out of bed.
But I was in the mood for a bit of a food adventure.
I'm not sure whether I was inspired by the Kojo Nnamdi Show's local restaurant world tour feature on Mexico last week, or our upcoming trip there, but sometime Sunday afternoon I determined that a mole (moh-lay) sauce was in order.
Just around the corner from my house is a Latin marketplace. I walked in to find shelves fully stocked with different variations of dried chiles, rows upon rows of dried and canned beans, spices, and frozen banana leaves (oh my!). After purchasing dried ancho chiles, I headed home to start my mole sauce.
Mole, more or less means "sauce" in Latin cuisine. Take for example, guacamole-- avocado sauce. There are many different mole sauces, and some look nothing alike (for example yellow pepper mole compared to this mole). I wanted to make a mole from dried anchos with bittersweet chocolate incorporated during the final stages.
This type of mole is very versatile. Shredded chicken would taste delicious after simmering in it, or try it for flavoring a beef stew. For breakfast, put a dollop atop a fried egg with a little tomato salsa.
I opted to serve my mole with lentils, a roasted fish dish, and a clementine-mango salsa. The finished mole had a rich and smoky flavor, with just a hint of heat. Delicious.
Ancho and Chocolate Mole (Moh-lay) (Makes 2 cups sauce)
Adapted from The Splendid Table
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 Cup chicken broth or stock (+ more if needed)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 onion, diced small
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 TB tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt, to taste
Use kitchen scissors to split open the chiles. Discard the stems and seeds. Cut the chiles into large flat pieces. Toast the chile strips over medium heat in a large heavy skillet, turning to prevent them from burning. Remove from the pan when they turn dark and release their smell. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for twenty minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, add the garlic cloves to the skillet and toast for fifteen minutes until the skins are darkened and the flesh has softened. Remove from the heat.
Puree the cherry tomatoes, 1 TB of tomato paste, and smoked paprika in a food processor. Place in a bowl.
Rinse out the food processor and return. Combine the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Drain the ancho chiles, then add to the mixture. Puree for an additional minute, until the mixture is smooth.
Reheat the skillet. Add the oil and onions. Cook, covered, over low heat until the onions have released some of their liquids (adding a little salt will help them release liquid more quickly). Uncover, increase the heat to medium and saute until golden brown (10-15 minutes).
Add the ancho chile mixture to the pan and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato and partially cover, simmering for about 25 minutes-- until the sauce is very thick.
Add the bittersweet chocolate and simmer for an additional ten minutes. Add the sugar and salt to taste.
This sauce can be refrigerated for 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.