When my friend Liz announced she was going to make mole (pronounced mole-lay) I offered to help. The process of making mole takes at least a day, even in Mexico where there are special mills for chili grinding so I saw this as a chance for us to spend some time together. You see, her life is in constant flux and I’m always writing, blogging or taking care of my elderly mother so mole-making would force us each to take a day off just for ourselves. In fact, Liz is so busy I half expected something to come up which would postpone our adventure, maybe forever. But, miracle of miracles, it did not.
Here’s what a commercially made mole looks like:
It’s actually a powder which, before serving, is mixed with crushed tomatoes and freshly grated dark chocolate and then served over meat (generally turkey). I suppose it could be served over cheese enchiladas, for you vegetarians, but from what I’ve read, it was originally developed to disguise the taste of bad meat.
The last time Liz made mole was in Mexico with her aunt. At that time they’d roasted the chiles and de-seeded them before taking them to a professional chili grinder. Her aunt was from Puebla, one of the cities claiming to be the mole capital of the world.
By the time I’d driven to her house, Liz had already roasted the chiles over her gas range. The smell of burning chiles hung over the small enclave of houses on the hill where she’s lived peacefully for twenty five years.
However it wasn’t always a peaceful co-existence. The day she moved in there was a knock at the door. A middle-age woman stood on her welcome mat, a disconcerted look on her face. “You don’t look like a Mexican!”
Without missing a beat Liz fired back: “Well, let me go get my sombrero and serape! Then maybe I’ll look like a fucking Mexican.”
I think the neighbors got the point.
Step One: Preparing the Chiles:
Without much adieu we set to the task of pulling apart the chiles to remove the seeds. You don’t want to leave the seeds in as they are as hot as Hades and they do not grind properly. While we processed the chiles we gossiped and giggled and complained about our husbands, the key ingredients of mole making.
Here’s what our fingers looked like after all that work.
Next came the task of grinding the chiles to powder. Unfortunately we don’t have any nearby professional chili grinders. Here’s what we had:
It took about two seconds before we realized neither of us had the wrist strength of Liz’s ancestors.
The next post: Grinding Chiles in the Modern World. In the meantime – chiles are just one of the twenty or so ingredients used in mole. Without googling, can you guess some of them?