Being from East Texas, and practically raised on El Chico–which seemed a very fancy restaurant to me in 1985–I had never even heard of mole until I moved to Austin. Where I’m from, there were until recently only two toppings for enchiladas: cheese or carne. The former was unfailingly easy-melting American cheese (I have it on good authority that most Tex-Mex establishments use Land O Lakes brand “cheese loaf,” which is generally only available wholesale). “Carne sauce” was basically standard gravy with a pinch of chili powder and some chunks of low-grade ground beef.
So imagine my surprise the first time I encountered mole. It’s rich, complex, and slightly nutty, with a hint of chocolate. It can be smooth and mild or warm and spicy. In Mexico, there are many regional (and grandmotherly) varieties, but what we usually think of mole here in Texas is mole poblano, which is also the unofficial national dish of Mexico. Most moles have somewhere between twenty and forty ingredients, with up to ten varieties of chile pepper!
My standard mole is not quite that complicated, but it’s a great recipe to try if, like me, you’re a mole newbie. All of these ingredients should be easy to find at your local supermarket, and the resulting sauce is dark and delicious.
You can use it as a topping on anything you like, but it’s typically served warm over a meat entrée (I suggest chicken) or as an enchilada sauce (my favorite!).
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
1 pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/8 tsp all spice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside for use as a sauce.
Makes 2 cups.
Here are some more ideas for how to use mole.