There are many different types of mole sauce, but the one that I remember, the one that I was completely intoxicated with, is the Mole sauce that I had in Paris, while I was studying at the Cordon Bleu. A number of my classmates were from Mexico. They introduced me to a fabulous Mexican joint that was my first experience with authentic, high quality Mexican food—and I fell in love.
Mole sauce is a romantic sauce, loaded with exotic spices, chilies and touched with chocolate. It is like that tall, dark and handsome stranger that you can’t take your eyes off of. The flavors are rich, complex and totally mysterious. I’ve made Mole sauce many times over the years and come close to my memory from Paris, but never quite got it right. One time I over toasted the chilies which gave the mole a slightly acrid taste and aroma. Another time not all of the ingredients were available and I boldly made substitutions, and the sauce was a watery imitation of what I remembered. However, all that changed this weekend. I had a serious yen for Mexican food and I came across a mole recipe on epicurious.com from archives of the Gourmet magazine. It was a far simpler recipe than I remembered making previously and I had all of the ingredients on hand so I had to try again. (I am such a geek when it comes to cooking!) It was fabulous. It took less than an hour to put together and I loved it. This was the sauce that I remembered! I adapted the sauce a little. I altered the amount of chilies used because I didn’t want it to be too spicy and I reduced the amount of orange zest. Because I wanted to make a vegetarian version I used water instead of chicken stock and I didn’t braise the chicken in the sauce. Instead I grilled chicken (and tofu) separately and served the sauce on the side. We invited some friends over and had a feast fit for a king.
Mole Sauce, adapted from Gourmet Magazine
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups orange juice (I used the Blood Orange Juice that I had in my fridge.)
1# onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted to a light golden brown
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1 ancho chili stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed
1/4 cup raisins, I used golden)
(1) 3 x 1/2-inch strip orange peel (orange part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the onions, and caramelize the onions slowly for 20-30 minutes, until they are a deep brown color. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, simply deglaze with a little bit of water. Once the onions have browned, add the spices and almonds to the saucepan. Add the stock or water and juice. Bring to a simmer and toss in the chilies, oregano, orange peel and raisins. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes or so, until the chilies are soft. Turn off the heat and add the Mexican chocolate to the sauce. Allow the chocolate to melt, then puree the mole sauce in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce seems too thick, thin with a little bit of water.
Serve as part of a meal with chicken, tofu, warm flour or corn tortillas, Queso Fresco and Crema.