Say Olé to Molé!!
Molé sauce is huge in traditional Mexican cooking, and a complicated one at that. I have researched this quite a bit and no matter what I read on one page, the next article or book or website tells me something different.
One thing is clear as I read, drool and learn about this rich, fragrant and thick sauce; like all traditions in any culture this food will never be the same if made by a mere two cooks or by more than a hundred. Molé is like a cooks personal fingerprint. Depending on where they originate, what their ancestors used and what recipe was taught to them, every Molé sauce is vastly different. And if I explain all of them to you, this post could be endless.
The bottom line is this: not all Molé sauces are made with chilies and chocolate, and when most people think of Molé, it’s likely what comes to mind is most common, Molé Poblano, widely considered one of Mexico’s most well-known dishes. It’s origin is Oaxaca, deep in the southern part of the country and home to a tremendous diversity of regional cuisine, it’s called The Land of the Seven Molés- Molé Negro, Molé Rojo, Molé Coloradito, Molé Chichilo, Molé Verde, Molé Amarillo and Molé de Almendra.(photo courtesy of delectable victuals)
A traditional method of making Molé means a large, extensive list of ingredients- 30 is considered an average with rampant rumors of those recipes topping 100- and a time consuming simmer on the stove. Some of the sauces are reduced to the consistency of thick paste. These are then reconstituted with chicken broth and cooked to the desired consistency. Molé Negro is the darkest and richest of them all, also the most difficult to prepare and hence, one of the most famous. Given the necessary time needed to prepare a good Mole, it is generally reserved for special occasions. Mole sauces, although widely prepared with accompanying foods like turkey, chicken and vegetables, is often simply eaten with tortillas, the remaining items being served on the side.
I knew very little of this when I spied a recipe for Roast Pork with Chipotle Mole Sauce in Dana Jacobi’s 12 Best Foods Cookbook. I just knew, looking at the recipe, that this was a dish that I would love, Mike would enjoy and Griffin might manage to choke down. He’s not one to really go into an eyeball rolling culinary glaze over spicy flavors like Mike and I, and I was right. He ate it, but with reservations. Mike and I, however, had a bad case of Mole lust with the first bite.
Based on the descriptions and ingredients of the different Mole sauces, I think this one could be considered Mole Coloradito. This Mole, brick red and relatively mild in comparison, contains raisins, cinnamon, oregano, tomato, peanuts and almonds, as well as the required chilies and chocolate, all thickened with darkly toasted bread. The ingredients are cooked and seared in a pan, blended smooth then returned to the pan and cooked to a thick, fragrant and mouth-watering sauce. A small pork tenderloin was then browned and placed in the hot sauce to cook through.
And like I said, we had some serious Mole lust going on.
The pork was ultra tender from it’s simmer in the thick sauce and the flavors that touched our tongues were at once spicy, sweet, hot and dark. I added additional dark chocolate to the ingredient list and allowed it to simmer way longer than recommended. I’m glad that I did; the sauce thickened, turn very dark and achieved a richer and deeper flavor that only got better over the next few days. We enjoyed the leftover sauce drizzled over nachos and used as a tortilla chip dip. Heck, I would have gladly spooned it up all on it’s own.
Pork Tenderloin in Chipotle Mole
from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi
1 T. canola oil
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 c. canned tomato, with liquid
1 slice whole wheat bread, darkly toasted
1-2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 T. sugar
1 t. mexican oregano
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. ground clove
1 15-oz can chicken broth (or equivalent)
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1-1/2 #
2 T. white sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium high heat, add garlic and saute for one minute. Stir in nuts and spread out, cooking to a light golden, about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Transfer mixture to a blender and wipe out skillet. Add tomato to blender, along with toasted bread, chipotle, raisins, cocoa, oregano, sugar, cinnamon, black pepper and clove and whirl to blend well. Add about a half cup of broth and blend again until sauce is a pulpy puree. Pour sauce back into skillet and add remaining broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
In a separate skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil and when hot, add pork tenderloin. Sear on all sides to a golden brown, then place in pot of Molé sauce and stir to coat pork completely. A little chicken broth or water can be used to de-glaze the skillet, adding the browned bits to the Molé. Cover pan and allow to simmer on low heat until pork is cooked thoroughly.
Can be garnished with sesame seeds before serving.
I added a chopped onion to the skillet before cooking the garlic, and browned it well to provide some extra flavor. Once the Molé sauce was simmering, I stirred in about 3/4 of a dark chocolate bar (I think it was Dove). It added an amazingly deep chocolate-y flavor.
I cooked my Molé for quite some time before adding the browned pork. It probably simmered for at least 30-45 minutes, long past the time indicated in the recipe. I added slightly more chicken broth to the mix while I cooked it, and watched as the color deepened. My sauce needed a bit of salt for seasoning, but otherwise it was really wonderful. This extra step is not necessary, but I think it added a lot of flavor. Be sure to stir it often to prevent it from sticking and scorching.
The leftovers will keep for days in the fridge, and likely can be frozen for months. It makes a lot of sauce. Alternately, you can brown and then roast the pork with the sauce in a 325° oven until it is cooked through, making sure you’re using an oven-proof pan.