Saturday, September 25, 2010

Project Food Blog #2 Pork Meet Chocolate. Ole for Mole!

Just a note: Thanks to everyone who's supported me through Round #1 of Project Food Blog! Thanks to all of you  here I am ready for 
Project Food Blog #2 The Classics
  This is where we're asked to recreate a classic ethnic dish. Haha!! I cook Indian food, can't get more ethnic than that thought I. No French or Italian need apply. Ok, check that. Italian I do, but French is a killer for me. Last time I tried anything French it went directly to the garbage can with a resounding thud. It did not pass go, it did not collect the 500 dollars, it did not hit the plate in any way shape or form. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was off the hook there!
  Then I read the rest of the rules. We had to cook something that we don't normally cook. We had to step outside our comfort zone. Oops, no Indian. Now what?
   My mom has always been a sucker for Mexican food. She loves it! She would get incredible take-out from a little neighborhood joint called The Hot House. I always wanted a taste but she'd say, "sorry this is just for grown ups. You wouldn't like it."  I wouldn't like it?!  Really, Julia Child? So the charred fish sticks and gummy, boxed mac and cheese I was fed? That she thought I liked?!
   On that day, Mexican food became a forbidden food in our house. When other kids were breaking into their parents' liquor cabinet, I was looking through the fridge for my moms' doggie bags. I loved it so, even her exploding tamale cans didn't put me off. So that was enough to send me scurrying back to my own  hemisphere. Mexican food it would be.
    One of my favorite restaurants in LA is La Guelaguetza, and my very favorite dish is their Mole Negro. What can you say about a culture that knows how to mix pork and chocolate together exquisitely??  You think inventing the light bulb is a big deal? No, no, no, no. I'll take the dark, just give me the chocolate. I'd been fantasizing about it lately.  I decided to make a Mole Negro, yellow rice, black beans and some homemade corn tortillas. I figured that would be a big enough challenge for me and definitely outside my comfort zone.
   One of the first things I found out in recreating this much loved dish, is that when preparing a curry the meat or fish is cooked in the sauce. When making a mole the meat and the sauce are prepared separately and then mixed together at the end.
   Since Mole is divided into two parts, that's how I'll explain this.

First, The Meat
  I started with 2 lbs of pork loin. I trimmed off any heavy duty fat as I was trying to make this a healthy mole.

Note the charming butchers' gloves. I cannot recommend these highly enough. I learned my lessons the hard way!  Cut the meat into 1 inch chunks more or less.
I went "old school" with this mole and cooked it in clay pot from Columbia that Paula Wolfert gave me a few years ago. It's my favorite as you may tell from seeing it in almost every recipe. I added 10 cups of water and a bit of salt and pepper.

I brought the pork to a boil then turned down the heat and simmered it for about an hour or so.
 While that was going on it was time  

To Grind Mix and Blend the Mole
   There are a lot of ingredients in this dish. I'm used to cooking with a bunch of different spices with Indian food, but these were different spices. Different chilies. I didn't know a Pasilla ages into an Ancho. I actually took a book of pictures into the market with me. They looked like mug shots.  I felt like a character from "Law and Order SCD : Special Chili Division"
  "Excuse me Mister, have you seen this chili?" I know I was the joke of the produce department at the Hispanic market I visited, but they had mercy on me and helped me find everything I needed.
  Before going into a Mole, all the ingredients are roasted and toasted and soaked. This intensifies the flavor.  First I stemmed and seeded my chillies.

  There are warnings galore about wearing plastic gloves when doing this. I have to confess, I generally "go commando" as after years of turning chapattis with my bare hands, I have no nerve endings left in my fingers. So do as I say not as I do. Wear the gloves. Please.
  In a large skillet I roasted the chilies until they were toasty.

I put the toasted chilies in a bowl and tossed in dried apricots and raisins and soaked everything in hot water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I was thinking of La Gueletaza and how I used to just drive over there. I used to complain about the traffic. Ha! Traffic?  Really? How spoiled was I? Here I was, giving every nut, vegetable, and fruit in my pantry a freakin' spa day!!! I never dreamed how hard those guys worked!!

So I soaked everything for 30 minutes, I got it all nice and soft. I got it in the mood. I started to think about why I decided to cook Mexican food as a challenge. Like Indian food there are many regional cuisines and an amazingly varied history. I was also fascinated by the similarities between Moles and Curries. Some people have called Mole the Curry of the West and some call Curries the Mole of the East and some just ought to forget the whole thing and enjoy their food.
 Meanwhile what wasn't soaking, got roasted!

Toasted bread is one of the ingredients used to bind a Mole together. This gave me a chance to use this nifty little Finnish stovetop toaster given to me by my friend Heikki when he returned from his regular summer in Helsinki. It looks like a thing my Orthodontist used to make me wear, but hot damn, did it work!! Gotta love those Finns!
Once everything was soaked and drained, roasted and toasted and crumbled, it was put into the food processor.

 Viva Mole!!
   Well, maybe not quite Mole, but the base of the Mole. As they say, The Raw Mole!
Time to cook it. I heated 1 tablespoon of oil in my big clay pot and once it was hot, Boom! In went the Mole. It reminded me of the final tempering in Indian cooking where spices are added to hot oil or ghee, and then infused into the finished dish. Except I wasn't finished. Not by a long shot.
  The raw Mole went into the hot oil and then was cooked for about 5 minutes or so. The idea was to get everything thickened and fragrant. I added in 4 cups of the stock the pork had cooked in. Finally it was time for the money shot,  the honey and the chocolate!
  I simmered the chocolate sauce for about 10 minutes than added in the drained cooked pork. I cooked it all slowly on a low heat  for several hours to  let the flavors blend and make sure everything was tender.
I seasoned the black beans with cumin and bit of fresh chili that I'd grown on my deck, and sprinkled them with some queso blanco. Remembering the wonderful rice they always serve at Guelaguetza, I made a yellow rice with annatto seed, which I learned is what they use to give butter its' yellow color. It also gives any piece of clothing that gets near it that same yellow color too, as I discovered.
  And of course those tortillas! I mixed a masa batter, rolled little balls and put them in my tortilla press. Yes, I do cop to owning an authentic wooden tortilla press.

It was given to me by an ex friend who turned out to be one of the Queen of the Mean Girls .  This "frenemy" brought it to me after visiting her family in Mexico City (when she was still speaking to me) and I have always worried that maybe it was haunted so I've never used it. But I decided it was time to break the curse. I lined it with a cut up Ziplock bag to keep the dough from sticking.

Then I pressed down hard!

Somehow I don't think that's exactly how the Aztecs did it, but I pretended it was my old Frenemys' head and so it worked for me.
I fried the tortillas up on my tava. It was the closest piece of equipment to an authentic comal I could find. Dinner was served.
For dessert I fixed a simple Mexican vanilla ice cream drizzled with  homemade dulce de leche sauce.

 What did I learn, from stepping outside my comfort zone?  I learned I loved and missed La Guelaguetza,  but since I "had" to try this, I was able to bring a little bit of it home with me. Gracias Foodbuzz.


  1. Oh my goodness! This dish looked like so much effort was put into into making it, but the end result is fantastic. If I tried this, I'd be bawling my eyes out in both pain and joy ;-). Well done, Kathy. Hope you advance on to the 3rd challenge, you certainly deserve to!

  2. if I had to pick another food to cook it would be mexican, love it! and you did an exquisite job. Cant wait to vote for you again, much luck to you Kathy!

  3. Oh WOW! I will so want to make this..! Good luck!

  4. I have always loved Mexican food. Living in NYC, you rarely had to cook it because there were authentic recipes everywhere. I am eager to try mole! Good luck with round 2!

  5. You go girl! Fantastic post as usual. I love the fact that you used the cursed tortilla press even though you thought it had bad juju. See? It was ok afterall.

  6. 'old school' is the best, something about clay cooking that these dishes need. love that wooden press, my brother had one and it worked like a charm. great mole, that's what much of Mexican food is, layering of flavors and you did an outstanding job... see ya at round 3

  7. Mole is one of my favorite Mexican meals. You did yourself proud.

  8. I think you did an excellent job with this - looks so "earthy" (I cant think of any other word - thats the one that popped in my head)

  9. Anyone who knows and loves Guelaguetza, gets my vote. GREG

  10. This just might be my favorite post from second rounds up. Oh dear I can feel all the pain and hardwork that went into making this. But u did an incredible job! and my fav part the desert!

    PS. I'm so envious of your tortilla press and earthen pot!

  11. You know, I had mole negro de Oaxaca when I was in Mexico City earlier this year. It was absolutely divine! And I love the traditional tortilla maker--so much prettier than the aluminum kind!

  12. @Frank,
    I just love Mole Negro and it was a lot of work to make it. Even though I'm used to many steps in Indian food..these were different steps. I'm going to have to use that tortilla press more often now that I've broken it in.

  13. @kulsum@JourneyKitchen,
    thanks so much for your support.I love a lot of detail work and I sure got it with this recipe! This was my first clay pot. Paula Wolfert gave it to me and I've been collecting them ever since.

  14. @SippitySup,
    I really really really loved eating there. I have to hit it every time we go to LA on business. The tamales with mole..OMG!!! Anything with mole actually..any color Mole! You're lucky you have easy access.

  15. @Foodiva,
    yes it was a whole lot of work and then it was gone so quickly!!!

  16. @doggybloggy,
    yes it was indeed earthy. I love the added advantage of cooking in a raw clay pot.The scent of the wet earth that wafts from the pot blends with the food..positively heaven!!

  17. @CaseyAngelova,
    yes, I had the same situation in LA. Great Mexican food from almost any region was RIGHT THERE anytime I wanted it! I really miss it. We have quite a few Mexican restaurants up here but they cannot compare to what I'm used to being able to find and also I cook most everything we eat here. Since I started this blog over a year ago, dining out is a rarity.

  18. @pegasuslegend,
    yes, it's my favorite food to eat when we do go out, since I don't cook it. When we actually eat something I don't cook, I always want something that I know I'll never fix at home.Otherwise it's not "special"
    Thanks so much.
    thanks for your support! It was a lot of work but so worth it.

  19. @food she thought,
    I really love cooking in clay. have you tried it?
    @penny aka Jeroxie
    thanks so much! How's the international egg incident going? Can't wait to see what everyone is posting.

  20. @janis,
    thanks. I had to get rid of the bad juju, and believe me this girl could really put it out there.
    I felt like the "head crusher" from Kids In The Hall

  21. Excellent job! I would love to make a mole like this someday. I love that little tortilla press (even though it's froma frenemy) and the simple dessert of vanilla ice cream and homemade dulce de leche is perfect!

  22. looks awesome! i feel this challenge is bringing out the best in us!

    I love the simple design of the tortilla press/head crusher.

  23. Love the Mexican food Kathy and you displayed it so beautifully. Fabulously written Kathy I really enjoyed this one but you knew that I'm sure. Will be voting tomorrow. Best of luck to you.

  24. moles are delicious! looks scrumptious! too bad the food disappears so quickly compared to the preparation.

  25. You totally outdid yourself! This is one of my Fav dishes!! Except down in Southern Mexico they make a different mole. SO delicious! COngrats and I hope you make it to the next round, because I voted for you!

  26. The food sounds and looks amazing and all, but I have to say, the best part of this fantastic post was the frenemy aspect. Sooo funny that you pictured her head inside it when you used the tortilla press. I have some Egyptian lanterns that are totally cursed by the vendor who sold them to us in Sharm El Sheikh, so I know how object voodoo goes too:)

  27. Excellent job! Looks perfect! I love that you cookied it in a clay pot and made your own tortillas... a must in my opinion! You totally have my vote. Good luck!

  28. I just voted for you!!! Wow, amazing pictorial walk-thru...I have ordered Mole at a restaurant before and never dreamed of making it myself, but thanks to you, I can. Good luck!!!

  29. Wow! This looks amazing! Lots of work involved here, but it looks like it was completely worth it. Good luck on this round!

  30. I've never heard of using mole on anything other than chicken though I've used it on potato as well. Interesting. I'm amazed you have the time to make everything from scratch. That wouldn't fly around my house.

  31. Great post, love your sense of humor and can certainly relate to your reference of your frenemy. Your mole looks delicious. You got my vote, good luck!

  32. Kathy,
    Don't you love the fact that we both used annato seed and you did Mexican and I did Filipino food? I'm glad you pointed that out. Great post!

  33. Voted.

    Mole *is* difficult work, and I applaud you for doing it!

  34. Another awesome post Kathy! Mole` is an all-time favorite, in fact I'm making it tonite. Except I CHEAT and use the jarred stuff and throw it all in the crock pot. I'm certain it's not as fine as making it from scratch, but I figure it's better than not having it at all ;-)

  35. well done! I need to bookmark this for a rainy day.
    I voted you (see my post here:

  36. If you can handle Indian, I'm sure you can tackle a mole! Great foodtography and great post. You've got my vote, Kathy!

  37. "Going commando" with the chilis...the whole post would have been worth it for that line, even if the food/photos hadn't been amazing! You definitely get my vote for your awesomeness in food blogging.

  38. Fantastic job...and so love that tortilla press :) Great entry...already voted :)

  39. Great introduction! I feel like the things we're deprived of as kids become our obsessions later in life. I base this on the bacon addictions of some of my Jewish friends. Congrats on conquering a very tricky dish, and for fitting in a Mean Girls reference. You've got my vote, best of luck!

    Lick My Spoon

  40. I've always feared making mole, all of the intimidating, long list of ingredients... yeah, you're my idol right now! Good luck!

  41. Congrats on making Mole! It is so delicious - I may decide to tackle this dish next ;).
    I voted for you - Good Luck!

  42. Your mole turned out great Kathy! I loved seeing your step by step and your great commentary. You may have even inspired me to give it a go. I wish you the best for this round!



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