Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mole, Ole!

A while back (last summer), Mr. Wendy and I took a weekend vacation to Austin, TX.  Austin is awesome.  We spent a leisurely morning on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, lounging in the shade with books in hand.  We perused the aisles of Book People, coveting everything in sight.  We even got to take in a junior roller derby bout.  It rocked.

And the food ... oh, the food.  My friend Mahala made us crazy-good vegetarian Frito pie and poblanos stuffed with rice and cheese. We breakfasted on potato and bean tacos and the killer waffles at 24 Diner.  Seriously, I was in food heaven.

On our last night in town, we went out on a date ... to the thoroughly unpretentious, but completely yummy Mother's Cafe:  enchiladas smothered in a smoky, complex mole; a bright hibiscus and mint iced tea; and finally a luscious dark mocha cake with ganache frosting and a scoop of coffee ice cream.

I came away inspired, determined to recreate the elements of that fabulous meal.  My first effort involved the hibiscus tea, and it was a hit.  But then I got sidetracked, and never got back to the most ambitious part of the meal: those enchiladas ... specifically, the mole.  Until now.

From what I understand, every town in Mexico has its own variation of mole.  I poked around looking for common threads among recipes, and this is what I ended up with.  I'm not gonna lie:  this isn't a simple recipe.  But it was mighty tasty (spicy, sweet, and deeply layered).  If you're looking to dive into a dish and really cook up a storm, give this one a go.

By the way, I spread a little of the sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan, topped it with simple cheese enchiladas (corn tortillas, softened in the oven, and wrapped around shredded jack cheese), and then spread more sauce on top.  I served the enchiladas, topped with a dollop of sour cream, with some simply seasoned black beans and Melissa Bourbon's sopa de arroz.


2 Tbs. canola oil
12 - 16 oz. onions, sliced
1/2 c. sliced almonds
6 cloves of garlic, sliced or pressed
4 tsp. cumin seeds
4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
4 oz. dried pasilla chiles (stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed)
3 c. vegie broth
2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice (about 6 juice oranges)
1/4 c. raisins
4  3x1.5 inch strips of orange peel (just the orange part)
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 3.1 oz. disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. peanut butter

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute until the onions begin to brown (10-20 minutes, depending on how thinly you slice the onions).  Reduce heat to medium.  Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander.  Saute for 2 minutes.  Add chiles and saute another 2 minutes.  Add broth, juice, raisins, orange peel, and oregano.  Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes (until the chiles are very soft).  Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir until it's melted.

Working in small batches, puree the sauce in a blender.  As you finish blending each batch, pour it into a fine mesh sieve set over another pot or large mixing bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to push the sauce through the sieve so that any tough bits of pepper and spice are removed.  Once the sauce is all put through the blender and then the sieve, stir in the peanut butter until well-incorporated.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


  1. This sounds so good!! I love Mexican food!
    Sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  2. Thanks, Melissa! Yes, we had a great time. And I hope you try the sauce. I was skeptical about the strange list of ingredients, but the result was fantastic.

  3. Sauces can really transform a dish. I'd really like to try more new sauces. This one sounds fabulous. All those flavors! I bet it was great!

    ~ Krista

  4. I love a good mole. You had me fired up to try the recipe right up until "dried pasilla chiles" appeared on the list. Sounds like a lot of trouble to someone who rarely cooks anything requiring more than four ingredients. And fresh-squeezed orange juice? Hmm. Clearly, if friendship were based solely on shared love of cooking, you and I would barely nod to each other in public. Luckily, we share more than that--including, apparently, a love of nummy mole. How 'bout you just invite me over next time YOU make the mole? I'll bring the tequila.