Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holy Mole

One time, in college, I was feeling down in the dumps. A good friend instructed me to come over for dinner. He would make me mole. Did I know what mole was? Definitely not. Even after dinner was over, I wasn't really sure what I'd eaten. He defined it as a chocolate sauce. That may be true, but it's very misleading, in terms of establishing expectations. Chicken-in-chocolate-sauce sounds gross, but it was, of course, delicious, and unlike anything else I'd ever had. To this day, I still don't really know how to describe it. Savory, certainly. Spicy. Bitter. Sort of creamy. I don't remember why I was blue, but I do remember being very happy by the end of the meal. I don't know if mole is one of Eric's comfort foods, but since that day, it's become one of mine. Unfortunately, it's one that I don't know how to make myself, and it honestly never occurred to me to try, until I saw Mexican-style Chicken with Rice (pg 242-243 of The Family Meal)

Part of me feels kind of disingenuous calling this a recipe. It uses store-bought mole. That's kind of huge, in terms of originality, no? The primary difference between the instructions in the book and on the bottle of mole paste is that the book says to poach chicken and cilantro in water before adding the mole sauce and baking. Toasted sesame seeds are supposed to be sprinkled at the end, but I totally flaked on that. I have sesame seeds. I forgot all about them until right now. Oh well.

I could be wrong, but I believe that homemade mole is one of those "stir a pot for a full day" type of sauces, so I'll forgive the shortcut, because I probably wouldn't have bothered if I needed to hunt down difficult ingredients and cook all day. Whatever the source of the mole, the finished product was just how I remember, and I couldn't be happier, because it was really easy. Next time, I'd remove the skin before adding the sauce, though. Chicken skin is only good when it's crispy, and this was not.
Conclusion: Loved it. It prompted Matt to proclaim his approval of this book.

I'm more excited about one of the techniques of Mexican Rice (pg 244) than I am about the finished product. A puree of onion and cilantro is fried in oil with the rice for a minute before adding the broth. This gave the rice a sweet and herbal base flavor that was lovely. I felt like it needed more flavor, though. Next time, I'll include garlic and salt. Looking at the recipe now, I realize I forgot the penultimate step of adding butter to make the rice creamy. What is wrong with me tonight? Tasted good anyway.

Conclusion: Liked it.

I have sweets on the brain, and Matt has guilted me away from the Halloween candy with comments about how I'm stealing candy from children (When's the last time any of those kids ever gave ME any candy, huh??), I baked Santiago Cake (pg 76 of The Family Meal). This flourless cake is primarily made of ground almonds, eggs, and sugar. I admit I added more than a pinch of cinnamon, and zested an entire lemon, instead of half. I hate wasting zest.
This is the result of my efforts to pry the cake from the pan.
The cake is thin and crumbly, and appears to be soldered to my pan. The recipe says to put parchment paper in the bottom of the pan. I put my silpada mat down, because usually recipes says to use one or the other. I guess they're not interchangeable. This cake is STUCK to that mat. I tried to remove the cake, but as it broke up into smaller and smaller crumbs, I decided to just leave it in the pan and eat it by the spoonful. Charlie decided to eat it by the fistful...
I turned my back for two seconds.
Conclusion: Liked it, and definitely Charlie-Approved. This makes me happy, since nuts are so good for his little brain.


  1. yum to both recipes!! Love mole and love almond cakes.That method of cooking rice is also a favorite - this is classic mid-eastern or mediterranean pilaf and there are a lot of variations on this theme. I like to saute onions and acini di pepe , or orzo till brown, then add the rice till golden, then cook with chicken broth, a touch of tomato juice or tomato sauce, and finish with lemon and dill . It is a great rice recipe- terrific with grilled fish or chicken, and served with olive oil sauteed tomatoes with herbs and garlic, feta, kalamata olives, spinach, carrots, zucchini, chick peas, or really any kind of chopped fresh vegs, and herbs and it reheats so well too- love mediterranean food!

  2. I love mole! Ricardo makes it for me all the time. We also use the store bought kind, because to cook it from scratch you'd need hours and hours plus a ton of different spices. So I see no shame in using the store bought stuff. Although we normally don't bake it in the oven we shread the boiled chicken and cook it in the sauce on the stove top.

  3. Always a good sign when little ones can't wait to be served dessert! And, I have been wanting to make mole for awhile and I'm just going to break down and get some from the store.

  4. Oh, I love mole sauce too and yet I too have never made it from scratch. It's been on my too do list for years, but the list of ingredients reads like a novel and now I have the excuse that the ingredients are even harder to come by over here. Even so, I refuse to remove it from my list. So happy to hear that you liked this one.

    And may I just say that Charlie is adorable!

  5. Oh - yum.
    (P.S. Go for the homemade mole someday - my Tia Martha used to make it every once in a while when I was at her house and it is just so good...). Some moles are time hogs, but there are also quite a few "make it in an hour" ones out there (and not quite so ingredient intensive).
    Charlie is a cute one...