Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cranberry Mole

 From what I've seen and heard, mole gets a bad rap for being a very complicated dish to make. The truth is that the first time you make it, it can be a bit tricky. But here's the real trick to mole--you cook a bunch of ingredients separately, add them together, puree them, let it simmer, and voila--you have mole!

Mind you, this is obviously not the same method used in Old Oaxaca to make traditional mole. The ingredients are cooked over an open flame and then ground together in a molcajete, which is a large mortar and pestle made from lava rock that is cured. Talk about elbow grease. Unfortunately, I do not own a molcajete, although I have heard that there is a massive taste difference between grinding the spices and nuts into one another and simply whipping them up. Even though pureeing them does grind the ingredients down, when they're worked in a molcajete the flavors mingle differently because they're literally mashed into each other. So if you have the money and the time, go for it and savor the flavor. If you're on a limited budget and/or don't have the time, puree away. 

My mother is currently recovering from surgery, and her taste buds are a bit weak at the moment so she can't handle a lot of spice.  I made this mole as follows, but I poured a few spoonfuls into a small saucepan and diluted it with some more chicken stock, wine, and pomegranate juice. While the pomegranate juice was a healthy way to dilute it, I had to be careful not to add too much because it has a very sharp flavor. However, I do recommend some version of this if you want to introduce children with delicate taste buds to mole (or if you're willing, reduce the number of peppers or just forgo them completely). If you want the alcohol out, make sure you boil it for a few minutes. Also, if the mole seems too thin, try to reduce it by boiling.

It's honestly not tough to make mole your own. There are many different recipes out there, but this is my special holiday version. However, if you want it less spicy, you can always amend the number of peppers. If you want it thicker, add less chicken stock. If you want it thinner, add more chicken stock, wine, or even cranberry juice. Once you have a trial run, you'll get the idea of the process and the next time will be easier. 

If you are interested in making this for Thanksgiving or any type of meal, you can always make it a day or two ahead and simply reheat it when you're ready to serve. It'll be fine in the refrigerator for about a week and the flavors will only get better as time goes on. 

Cranberry Mole

5 cups gluten free Chicken Stock
4 dried Pasilla Chiles
3 dried Gaujillo Chiles
2 dried Chipotle Chiles
Olive Oil
Margarine, for frying (optional)
1 4 in. piece Canela (Mexican Cinnamon)
2 heaping tbsp. raw skinless Peanuts
15 raw Almonds
2 heaping tbsp. Pecan pieces
4 Garlic cloves
1 small white Onion, roughly chopped
1 cup dried Cranberries
1 pinch ground Cloves
1/4 tsp. ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground Cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. ground Oregano
1/4 tsp. Anise Seeds
1/4 tsp. Coriander Seeds
1/2 cup Red Wine
2 oz. grated Dark Chocolate
1 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1. Cut the undesired ends off of the onion and cut in half. Peel off the skin and place the halves in a bowl and place it in the freezer. Allow at least fifteen minutes before taking it out and chopping the onion. The colder the onion gets, the less vapors it gives out that will cause you to cry. 

2. Rinse the dried chiles under the tap, preferably with gloves. If you don't have gloves and want to scrape out the seeds, do so with a knife. If you want a very spicy mole, leave as many of the seeds in as you like. If you want it less spicy, scrape all of the seeds out, though keep in mind that the peppers alone will provide a fair amount of heat. I prefer to leave a few seeds from each pepper in, but this gives the mole definite bite.

3. In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of the chicken stock to a boil.

4. In a cast iron skillet, toast the chilies under medium high heat until they soften a bit and become aromatic. Then place them in the chicken stock so that they are submerged and reduce the temperature to medium. Cover the saucepan with a lid, but occasionally dunk the peppers into the chicken stock so that they are fully saturated. Just be careful each time you open the lid; the peppery steam that comes out is not pleasant to get in your eyes.

5.Then fry the following and add more olive oil and margarine (if you want buttery flavor, or you can do one or the other) to the cast iron skillet each time you cook a new ingredient. Once each item is cooked, add it to a medium-sized bowl so that they can all be combined.

a.Piece of Canela for a few minutes, then add to dried peppers in the chicken stock to soften
b. The peanuts and almonds
c. The pecans until lightly toasted
d. The garlic until lightly browned
e. The onion--once it's gotten a bit of color, add dried cranberries, cloves, cumin, oregano, nutmeg, and cardamom
f. The anise and coriander seeds

6. Puree the ingredients thoroughly in a food processor. First, puree the dried chiles and piece of canela with the chicken stock from the large saucepan. Add about 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the same saucepan before pouring the pureed ingredients back inside. Second, puree one half of the bowl of mixed ingredients with a cup of chicken stock, then the second half with another cup of chicken stock. Make sure that all the ingredients are pureed thoroughly before pouring them all into the large saucepan.

7. Stir the puree together until it's fully combined, then cook over medium high heat before simmering for 15 minutes. Add the chocolate and wine and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Add salt to taste. Let simmer until small pools of oil form around the bubbles. 

8. If you are ready to serve it, spoon desired amounts on top of poultry and rice (optional). If you're not ready, this can simmer for as long as you like. If you want to make it a day ahead, package it when it's at a manageable temperature and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!

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