Chili Chocolate Sauce over Turkey – Mole Poblano
You cannot visit Puebla, Mexico without trying the regional, yet well-known, specialty dish – mole poblano. There are different types of Mole in Mexico, especially in Southern and Central Mexico; specifically in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca. The sauce is somewhat thick. Meat or poultry is stewed in them with green and red moles prepared from a variety of ingredients.
The most complex and famous of the moles, however, is the mole poblano – a chocolate chili sauce from Puebla state that often contains some twenty ingredients or more. Your standard mole poblano sauce can have nuts such as almonds, sesame seeds, bread or tortillas, chocolate, and a combination of many dried chili types. Some of the chiles pack the heat like pasilla peppers. Some are milder such as ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers that have a sweeter, smokier flavor). Anise seeds, raisins or grapes, squash seeds, and cinnamon can be added for more flavor. Like the preparation of salsas, with moles some of the ingredients are ground with a mortar and pestle, and some of the foods in the recipe are pureed in a blender.
It seems as if every Poblano who cooks has his or her (mostly her) own version of mole poblano. Some of the moles are spicier, others are sweeter, some richer with more chocolate, some more salty, some with more anise, some thinner and others thicker, and the list goes on and on. You can learn a lot about somebody’s taste preferences just from trying their mole poblano.
There are a few stories as to how the thick sauce came about. One legend is that a nun used bits of ingredients she had left in the pantry and combined them all, or another tale is that a monk spilled all of his ingredients together in haste and what landed in the pot is what became the mole.
Mole is traditionally served with turkey, which goes especially well covered with the sweet and spicy combination. Chicken can also be served in the delicious sauce. Sometimes more upscale Mexican restaurants in the U.S. do a version with duck, since duck pairs so well with sweeter flavors. Mole poblano is so popular that it can be found on the menu of many Mexican restaurants throughout the U.S. An alternative recipe idea, if you are serving vegetarians, is to prepare firm tofu or seitan (a glutinous protein sometimes called wheat meat) in place of the poultry.
Mole is traditionally cooked in earthenware pots called olla de barro. Why earthenware pots? Earthenware, or the clay that it is made from is porous. Because of this, it holds in steam and stays hot for a long time, even after it is taken off the heat. It’s especially good for making stews and slow-cooked meats and poultry, such as mole.
Poblanos, especially in farming areas, often value traditional things and ideas which is displayed in the slow cooking style, the use of handcrafted cooking tools, and the use of local farm ingredients in the cooking of centuries-old ancestral recipes such as mole poblano.