Thursday, October 21, 2010

All About That Mole...

    A few weeks ago way back before all this last dental drama, I was moved out of my Comfort Zone by Foodbuzz for Project Food Blog Challenge #2. The result was an Experiment in Mole. I decided to reproduce one of my favorite "eating out" dishes. You see I never like to order something out that I can get at home because what's the fun of that?  That's where the Mole Negro comes in.
   I got quite a few e-mails about this recipe . It seems that Mole is something that a lot of people love but not a lot dare to make at home. So okay Bravehearts, for those of you who dare, this is how it goes.

    Start out with 2 lbs of pork butt.
I used pork butt because while this is a fattier cut, it's also tenderer and the secret of cooking this sort of meat is making the mole in two steps. Cooking, then letting it sit overnight in the fridge so the flavors can marry, and then the day of serving skim all the hardened fat off the top of the dish then rewarm and serve.
Cut the pork butt into 1 and 1/2 inch pieces, removing any extra bits of fat. When the pork is trimmed and cut up, put it into a large pot along with 10 cups of water. I used a Colombian Clay pot for cooking this dish as I love the extra earthiness that clay cooking gives to food, but any sort of pot will do. Add some salt and ground black pepper to taste and bring the pork and water to a boil. Remember to skim off any fat that might rise to the surface. Then reduce the heat and
 let it all simmer for another hour or so until the meat is tender. Skim any fat that might come to the surface in the meanwhile. When the meat is cooked pour it through a strainer held over a large bowl. You'll be saving the cooking liquid as it's going to be used later for the sauce. Set the meat aside; it's time to think about chili peppers.
 One of the scary things about making a mole is the extra long list of ingredients needed. However, most of what's needed is used in very small quantities and almost everything needed is very easy to find. So while the ingredient list may look long, it's really not that bad. Trust me.
  About those chiles, you will need:
 4 guajillo chilies
 2 ancho chilies
 2 pasilla chilies
 1 chipolte chili
These need to be stemmed, halved and cleaned of seeds.  
   Now there are warnings galore about wearing gloves while doing this. I usually go commando since I'm very used to working with chilies after cooking so much Indian food. If you are not used to working with these ingredients... wear the gloves. When the chilies are ready heat then in a hot skillet or on a comal if you have one. This takes only a few seconds if the pan is hot enough. You merely want to gently roast them so that they're nice and fragrant.

Once all the chilies have been roasted this way, put them into a medium sized bowl with hot water. Add in:
3 dried apricots
 2 Tbs of raisins.
Let everything soak for about 30 minutes until it's all nice and soft. Then drain everything, chop up the apricots and set it all aside.

Now comes the part that everyone finds scary about making their very first mole. That is the chopping and the charring. All of the next ingredients have to be cut up and briefly roasted in the skillet or the comal before adding it to a blender or food processor to mix. This gives the mole that wonderful rich smokey deep flavor.
.  So, briefly roast:
 2 tomatoes
 4 peeled tomatillos

 1 small white onion cut into quarters
2 cloves of garlic or shallots
2 Tbs of slivered almonds
 2 Tbs of raw peanuts
 2 Tbs of sesame seeds.



 And one piece of french bread darkly toasted and broken into 1 inch pieces.
    Take all of these ingredients plus the chilies, apricots and raisins and put them into the bowl of a food processor or a blender along with:
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed anise seeds
1/4 tsp ground cloves
 1/2 tsp of black pepper
Grind all of this up to a pulp. Puree it until you have a smooth mixture. If it's not moist enough, you can add up to 1 cup of the pork liquid you've set aside.
  Now it's time to start cooking .
 In a large pot heat 1 Tbs of olive oil and when it's hot add in the pureed chili mixture along with 1 cinnamon stick.
    Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes or so until it's all nice and dark and fragrant. Now to add the legendary sweet that Mole Negro is famous for.
 Stir in 2 Tbs of honey. For this recipe I was lucky enough to be able to sample Tropical Traditions Organic Raw Honey . They were nice enough to send me a jar and it was just what the recipe called for.
 After that put in 2 Tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder.  I have to admit here that I used the good stuff. I broke out the Valhrona. After all, if I was going to be using the organic honey, I had to have chocolate that was up to the mark.
  Now add in 4 cups of the pork liquid that was set aside earlier. Simmer the whole thing until it's thick and  fragrant. This should take about 10 minutes or so.
Now add in the pork and simmer until the whole thing is melt-in-your-mouth tender. I'm a believer in slow cooking. Maybe it's from hanging around with Paula Wolfert, and I definitely use a lot of clay pots in my cooking, another gift from Paula. When I made this dish, I cooked my pork on a low heat, gently simmering it for about 3 hours or so. If you're cooking it at a regular temperature however, you only need to cook it for another 10 to 20 minutes but I think slow is much better. That way all the flavors really get a chance to get to know one another. I let the dish cool a bit and then put it into a Pyrex bowl and set it in the fridge to rest overnight. The next day I was able to scrape any fat that had risen to the top, off of the food and reheat it again slowly and gently for another three hours, keeping all of the flavor but none of the bad stuff.
   With some yellow rice with annatto, stewed black beans, a bit of queso frecso and a home tortilla or two, you're in business!

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