Mole Poblano Recipe
How to make the rich, tasty Mexican sauce
Cinco De Mayo is tomorrow, but there's still time to plan a kick-ass Mexi-menu. You can't go wrong with this mole poblano recipe from the excellent Mexican chef Roberto Santibañez, whose Brooklyn restaurant Fonda is the go-to haute Mexican spot for in-the-know New Yorkers. Follow Santibañez's lead and serve up this thick, rich mole sauce over chicken, enchiladas, or turkey.
It’s ironic that the mole that has served as the ambassador for all others in the United States is also one of the most misunderstood. Whenever I hear this sophisticated mole casually referred to as “chocolate sauce,” I’m saddened, because it’s so much more! While a little Mexican chocolate does contribute to its sweetness, so do a host of nuts and, sometimes, a plantain, an apple, or animal crackers. In fact, I’d bet there are as many recipes for it as there are cooks in Puebla, and everyone seems convinced that their version is the best. Me? I’m in love with this one, straight from Ana Elena Martinez’s kitchen to yours.
Set the oven or toaster oven to broil and preheat. Alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 500°F. If you’re using the oven broiler, position the rack 8 inches from the heat source. Core the tomato and cut a small “X” through the skin on the opposite end. Roast the tomato, cored side up, and tomatillos on a foil-lined pan, turning the tomatillos over once halfway through, until their tops and bottoms have blackened and they are a khaki-green color and cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes; and the tomato (without turning) until its top is blackened and it’s cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes total. Slip the skin off the tomato.
Meanwhile, heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and roast the onion and garlic on the comal, turning the garlic over occasionally, until it is just tender and golden brown with some blackened spots, 8 to 10 minutes; and carefully turning the onion slice over once, until it’s softened and charred on both sides, 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat until it simmers. Fry the chiles, a few of the same variety at a time, turning them over with tongs, until puffed and slightly changed in color, 30 to 45 seconds per batch of mulato and ancho chiles, 45 seconds to 1 minute for pasilla chiles, and about 11/2 minutes for chipotle meco chiles. As the chiles are fried, transfer them to a large bowl. When all the chiles are fried, add enough cold water to cover them and let them soak for 30 minutes. Discard the remaining oil from frying the chiles and set the skillet aside.
Using tongs, hold the tortilla directly over a burner set to medium, turning it over frequently, until it’s dark, golden brown, and some burned spots appear on both sides. Crumble it into the soaking fried chiles.
Have ready a medium bowl and a metal sieve set over a small heatproof bowl.
Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of oil in the reserved skillet over medium heat until it shimmers and fry the following ingredients one by one. As they’re fried, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the medium bowl (for ingredients that are difficult to scoop, empty the contents of the skillet into the sieve to drain first, then return the oil to the skillet and put the fried ingredient into the medium bowl).
Fry the almonds, stirring, until they are golden, about 2 minutes.
Fry the pumpkin seeds, stirring, until they are puffed and only slightly browned, about 1 minute.
Fry the raisins, stirring, until they are puffed, about 1 minute.
Fry the bread, turning over once, until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes.
Fry the plantain slices, turning over once, until golden, about 3 minutes.
Transfer the remaining oil (2 to 4 tablespoons) in the skillet to a 7- to 8-quart heavy pot and set aside.
Wipe the skillet clean and heat it over medium heat until it’s hot. Toast 3 tablespoons of the reserved chile seeds (save the remainder for another use) in the skillet, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chile seeds to the medium bowl. Toast the sesame seeds, canela, cloves, aniseed, coriander, allspice, and peppercorns in the skillet, stirring, until the sesame seeds are a shade darker, about 11/2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the medium bowl.
Drain the chiles and discard the soaking water, and puree them in the blender jar with about 2 cups of the stock.
Heat the reserved oil in the pot over medium heat until hot, then add the chile puree and cook (use a splatter screen so the sauce doesn’t make a mess of the stove), stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, working in 2 batches, combine the fried and toasted ingredients (from the medium bowl) with the roasted tomato, tomatillos, onion, and garlic in the blender jar, along with 2 more cups of the stock per batch, and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes per batch. Be careful when you’re blending hot ingredients: Cover the top with a towel, and hold the top firmly in place with your hand. Add the mixture to the chile puree in the pot as you blend it, and once you’re done, swish a little liquid around in the blender and add it to the pot.
Add the chocolate, sugar, and salt to the mole, stirring until the chocolate melts. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as needed to maintain a velvety consistency that thickly coats a wooden spoon, but isn’t gloppy, about 45 minutes. Season to taste with additional sugar and salt.
At this point you would add cooked chicken or turkey to the mole, reduce the heat to low, and cook until it’s just heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.