Most people associate mole with either with Puebla or Oaxaca , but the origin of mole poblano, the thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce made so famous in the colonial mountain city of Puebla, Mexico, is still disputed, and generally involves these two versions of the legend:
The first says that 16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chilies together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients..
This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant mole sauce we know today. To serve in the mole, they killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it. The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face. Little did they know they were creating the Mexican National dish for holidays and feasts, and that today, millions of people worldwide have at least heard of mole poblano.
The other legend states that mole came from pre-hispanic times and that Aztec king, Moctezuma, thinking the conquistadors were gods, served mole to Cortez at a banquet to receive them. This story probably gained credibility because the word mole comes from the Nahuatl word “milli” which means sauce or “concoction”. Another connection could be that chocolate was widely used in pre-columbian Mexico, so people jumped to that conclusion.
Prep time: 25 Minutes Cook Time: 80 Minutes
Serves: 4 People Difficulty: Medium
- 60 g. dried mulato chilies
- 30 g. dried ancho chilies
- 30 g. dried pasilla chilies
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 (3-4-lb.) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1⁄2 medium tomatillo, husks removed, rinsed
- 1⁄4 small white onion, peeled
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 tsp. whole cloves
- 1⁄2 tsp. whole allspice berries
- 1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1⁄4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1⁄4 tsp. anise seeds
- 1⁄2 stick cinnamon, preferably canela
- 1⁄4 ripe plantain or banana, peeled and finely chopped
- 1⁄2 small corn tortilla, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp. whole almonds
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp. raisins
- 1⁄4 stale bolillo (Mexican bread) or 1 slice white sandwich bread, toasted and crumbled
- 1 tbsp. lard or canola oil
- 60 g. Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped piloncillo or packed light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2 small plum tomato, cored
- Mexican red rice, for serving
- Heat a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add mulato, ancho, and pasilla chilies, and cook, turning once, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer all chilies to a large bowl; pour over 5 cups boiling water and let sit until chilies are soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid, and remove stems and seeds from chilies, reserving 1 tsp. seeds from chilies. Set seeds aside, and transfer chiles to a food processor; add 1 cup soaking liquid, and process until smooth. Set chili purée and remaining soaking liquid aside. Bring chicken and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain; set aside.
- Meanwhile, arrange an oven rack 4″ from broiler element, and heat broiler to high. Place garlic, tomato, tomatillo, and onion on a foil-lined baking sheet, and broil, turning as needed, until all vegetables are charred all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer vegetables to food processor, and process until smooth; set vegetable purée aside.
- Heat butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved chili seeds, cloves, allspice, coriander, peppercorns, anise seeds, and canela, and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add plantain, and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add tortilla, and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 6 minutes. Add almonds and sesame seeds, and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Add reserved chili purée and vegetable purée, along with raisins and bread, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until all ingredients are softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and transfer mole to blender along with remaining soaking liquid; purée until very smooth, at least 4 minutes.
- Return saucepan to medium-high heat, and add lard. When hot, add mole and fry, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chocolate, piloncillo, and salt, and cook until chocolate and sugar dissolve and sauce is smooth, about 10 minutes.
Coriander and serve with a side of red rice (Mexican rice), if you like.