Friday, December 5, 2008

Mole Tricks and Tips

Greetings Mexican Foodies! I thought I would add a little background information on why the mole is such a great vehicle in Mexican cuisine. My recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey leftovers utilizes a basic mole.

Don't be afraid of the mole! Many people think mole preparation is difficult which is not true! Ingredient lists may be long but the process is simple and almost always the same. At La Villa Bonita our guests learn this simple technique along with helpful pointers.

(1) History Lesson. The word "mole" comes from the Spanish verb "to grind" or "moler." So you will fry almost all ingredients and grind them to get the mole sauce consistency. At the time of the Spanish colonization of Mexico, it was thought that nutrition in food was better absorbed if ground. When the Spanish arrived to Mexico during the colonization they adapted to use what ingredients were available in the indigenous diet -- dried chiles, nuts, seeds, spices, etc. The result is a truly Mexican dish that features the indelible mixture of Spanish and indigenous influences.

(2) Key Technique. Fry all ingredients separately. Each ingredient has a different frying and burning point. They all need to be individually "fried, dried and set aside." If you put all of the ingredients together when frying, some will burn before others are cooked.

(3) Don't Be Afraid of the Lard. Lard is a frying agent in most moles for the preparation of the individual ingredients and in "frying" the sauce once all the ingredients are ground. I know! I know! Over the past 20 years many have a unnatural aversion to lard or "manteca" as it is called in Spanish. Some traditional and less processed ingredients have been demonized over the years but new studies have shown that lard is actually better for you in comparison to substitutes such as Canola oil, processed vegetable oils, shortening, or margarine. Lard is mostly monounsaturated fat which is better for you than saturated fat. Many processed or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, moreover, contains large amounts of trans fatty acids which are bad, bad, bad and hard to digest! Lard gives mole a special flavor, provides the right consistency when you fry the completed mixture and is more forgiving because it has a higher smoking point. Come on! You cannot beat its flavor and cooking properties . . . and if it is better for you to boot? Is there really a choice?

(4) Party, Party, Party. This is a party dish which is why you will always see recipes in big batches. The great thing about mole is that it keeps so well in the freezer. Do big batches and freeze them without the meat in ziplock freezer bags (take out as much air as possible and freeze as flat squares -- saves space in the freezer). Now you can enjoy mole year round in smaller batches. Just heat, adjust consistency with chicken stock, and add your meat. The great secret is that mole actually tastes better when you freeze and reheat. The flavors marry in a better fashion when reheated! Use on eggs, over dobladillas, with any type of beef, chicken, turkey or seafood that trips your fancy. I have stored mole for up to a year and it tasted fabulous.

(5) Experiment! Mole is a technique not a recipe. I can't stress this enough. Most of my guests are too recipe-focused. Once you learn the technique, go crazy! Create your own masterpiece. There are numerous mole recipes across Mexico -- red, yellow, green, brown, and black. Every good cook has his or her own mole recipe that is guarded from prying eyes. Use different smoked or dried chiles, seeds, nuts, spices until you find the perfect combination. Let those flavors marry and try it out. Send me an email. I would love to hear how it turns out.

Peace, Love and Good Mole,
Chef Ana

1 comment:

Kiersten said...

I will NOT be afraid of the mole!!!