One of Mexico's first and greatest gifts to international cuisine is mole, a family of complex, chili-based simmering sauces that can be red, green, brown or nearly black in color.
Often said to have been invented by poor nuns at a colonial convent in Puebla where the celebrated Cinco de Mayo victory was to take place in 1862 mole takes its name from the indigenous Nahuatl word for mix or sauce.
This simple moniker scarcely hints at the riches found in every mouthful of mole, in which a panorama of chilies, spices, vegetables, fruits and sometimes even chocolate combine to create deeply-flavored sauces. A good mole can transform any meat, no matter how skimpy or stringy, into a flavorful meal.
There are just about as many different mole sauces as there are mole cooks, and you will find a variety of regional favorites in Mexico as well: In Oaxaca alone,foodrepublic.com Jess Kapadia cites seven very different local moles with varying ingredients that might include pineapple, beef bones or crushed tortillas.
One thing moles have in common: They tend to be labor-intensive efforts, with long lists of ingredients and intricate cooking instructions.
We wanted to make mole easier to achieve for home cooks who don't have the time to roast peppers, grind spices and assemble more than a dozen other ingredients for the savory sauce.
This dry blend combines 21 ingredients: chilies, almonds, pistachios, sesame, peanuts, hazelnuts, prunes, chocolate, cinnamon, oregano, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, coriander, anise, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, saffron, salt and sugar. Its all you need to spice your mole.
Our recipe calls for a bit of plantain banana, often used in Mexican moles to thicken and sweeten the sauce. Make sure its nice and ripe.