Mole (pronounced Moh-lay) is a “sauce” like Venus de Milo is just another statue. There are literally thousands of varieties of mole, most of which prominently feature chili peppers and branch out to include countless combinations of additional ingredients. Mole has been central to Mexican cooking since ancient times, and is considered by many to be the most widely recognized “Mexican food” in the world.
Moles are complex, slow simmering sauces… many ingredients may seem disharmonious at a glance, but when the flavors are properly teased out by grinding, roasting, and simmering, the end result is nothing short of magical.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, you can make mole two or three days ahead of time. The flavors will actually improve when allowed to rest for a few days! On the day of the party, you can offer the mole in it’s own dish for guests to enjoy however they wish, or spoon the mole over your featured meat. Today we’re enjoying Dark Chocolate Mole over roasted chicken, but the mole is just as delicious over pulled pork, grilled shrimp, or even cubes of roasted sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.
One last suggestion before we get started… mole is a great dish to prepare WITH someone rather than FOR someone! Pop in some mariachi music, make a few margaritas, and spend the afternoon creating this magical sauce with a friend. It’s a lovely way to spend the day!
Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)
3 dried chili peppers (any varieties which smell good to you)
2 cups pork stock (or use chicken broth)
1 small tomato
1/2 of an onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small corn tortilla
1/2 of a ripe banana
2 ounces dark chocolate (NOT milk chocolate)
Optional ingredients (See Step #8 below): lime juice, chili powder, peanut butter, salt
Step 1) Remove stems and seeds from dried peppers (I used one Ancho chili pepper, one Cascabel pepper, and one Chipotle pepper). Place dried peppers in a large skillet and heat over low-medium heat for three minutes, turning once. This step releases the fragrant oils in the peppers.
Step 2) While the peppers are heating, microwave 2 cups of good quality pork stock in a medium size bowl. The stock doesn’t need to boil, but should be pretty hot. Remove the bowl from the microwave, add the dried peppers to the bowl, and cover for 20 minutes. This softens the peppers and blends the “first layer” of flavors.
Step 3) While the peppers are soaking, let’s get started on the “second layer” of flavors. Add one small, chopped tomato, half of a chopped onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to your skillet. Sautee over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and are a pale golden color.
Step 4) Next, add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 small corn tortilla (torn into pieces) to the skillet. Stir everything around over low-medium heat for another 5 minutes.
Step 5) Then, add 2 tablespoons of water and 1/2 of a banana (sliced) to the pan. Reduce the heat and sautee over low heat for 5 minutes.
Step 6) Transfer the contents of your skillet AND the bowl of peppers and pork stock to a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender back into the skillet. This is where the real magic begins to happen…
Step 7) Sprinkle 2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (at least 50% cacao, the higher the better) to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 8) Make your Mole your Own! Taste your Dark Chocolate Mole and decide if it needs one or more of the following… but don’t get carried away. Remember, you can always add more of an ingredient, but it’s not so easy to remove once it’s already in the pan! I recommend trying ONE extra ingredient at a time. You might add (optional!):
- 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice to brighten things up
- 1/2 teaspoon of hot chili powder for heat
- 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter (whisked in) to add body
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt (not my preference, but this is YOUR mole!)
Step 9) Serve with chicken – roasted in your own oven, or a rotisserie chicken that you picked up ready made… it doesn’t matter. The Dark Chocolate Mole is the star of this meal!