Start from the beginning of our Mexico trip.
Mole: it's one of Mexico's most iconic dishes, an imposing recipe of dozens of ingredients that can take days to prepare. Most famous among Mexican moles (pronounced MOH-lay) is mole poblano, made with chiles and chocolate, and served over turkey at weddings, birthdays and baptisms. In Oaxaca — referred to as the "land of the seven moles" — the mole tradition goes far beyond mole poblano to include seven different types, each made with a distinctive blend of chiles and herbs. And thanks to the cooking class we took in Oaxaca, we can now make two of them — mole poblano and mole rojo.
We selected a class with a Oaxacan chef whose family used to own a restaurant in town. Oaxaca is famous for its food, and cooking classes are popular with tourists, but we wanted to be sure to find a class where we would be cooking, not just watching. Several of the better-known chefs were out of town, so we went with a guy named Agustin who had put up a flyer in our hotel. He was very enthusiastic and equally disorganized. But we got what we wanted — we got our aprons dirty making two moles, guacamole, two table sauces, two tomato sauces, enchiladas and huevos rancheros.
What follows are the recipes we learned, recreated as best we could from my notes and photos. (Agustin didn't approve of Ben doing most of the cooking while I recorded everything, but if we hadn't done that, we wouldn't have learned anything.) The kitchen was full of smoke most of the time, so you might want to open a window and turn off your smoke alarms if you do any of this. (There were no smoke alarms in Oaxaca so this was not a problem there.)
We have yet to make any of this again at home. (We had enough Mexican food on this trip to last several months...) But all of the special ingredients are apparently available in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco, so some weekend this year, perhaps, we'll make it all again.
Both types of mole use the same base, a non-spicy, nutty-tasting sauce. According to Agustin, this sauce can also be served on its own with rice or chicken as mole almendrado (there are a million variations on mole — many mole almendrado recipes include a type of dried chile pepper called chile ancho).
A note on the proportions: they're very unscientific. Good luck.
Ingredients: garlic, onion, walnut, banana, raisins, baguette, almonds, peanuts, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, saffron, oregano, thyme, anis, cumin, ginger, avocado leaves, chicken broth, vegetable oil
In a saute pan, fry the banana and baguette with lots of oil. In a second pan, fry the remaining ingredients until the onions brown. Empty both pans into the blender, cover with chicken broth, add a little water and blend for at least a minute. Place in a sauce pan on stove and bring to boil, then turn off the heat.
|Base, aka mole almendrado|
Mole negro (also known as mole poblano)
Ingredients: chile huacle negro, pasilla mexicana, mulato, chipotle/meco, red tomatoes, green tomatoes, sugar, chocolate, salt, black pepper, base (above)
Boil a few red tomatoes in water, then blend with a little water. Separately, do the same with a few green tomatoes.
Remove the seeds from the chiles, then roast the seeds and skins without oil in a pan to the point of burning. (Warning: Smoke will fill your kitchen and burn your eyes.) Burn a tortilla over the stove. Add the burnt tortilla, roasted chiles, salt and pepper to the blender. Cover with water and blend at least one minute. Strain the mixture to get rid of pulp.
Add blended red tomatoes and blended green tomatoes to the base, bring to boil, then lower heat, add chiles and stir slowly. Add sugar and chocolate and stir some more. It can reduce for up to a few hours until thick. Serve over your choice of meat (most traditionally chicken or turkey) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
|Chicken topped with mole rojo and mole negro|
Ingredients: chile cuajilo, chile ancho rojo, red tomatoes, green tomatoes, sugar, chocolate, salt, black pepper, base (above)
Boil and blend the red and green tomatoes like with mole negro.
De-seed the chiles (the seeds aren't used here, but keep them for something else). Boil the chiles until soft, saute in oil, rinse well then add to blender along with chicken stock and water, and blend.
Add blended red and green tomatoes to base, bring to boil, lower heat, add chiles, stir slowly. Add sugar and chocolate. Stir. It can reduce for up to a few hours until thick. Serve over your choice of meat.
Obviously there a million ways to make guacamole. This one differs from our personal recipe in that it omits garlic, adds jalapeño and uses lime in place of lemon.
Ingredients: avocado, handful of cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeño pepper, diced medium tomato, small amount of diced white onion, juice of one lime, salt, a little water
Mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Do not puree. (Tip: Keeping the avocado seed in with the guacamole is supposed to keep it from turning brown.)
Hot table sauces
We made two different types of hot tomato sauces, meant to be placed on the table and added to any number of dishes. You can mix and match the ingredients for different flavor profiles and levels of spiciness.
Hot sauce #1
Ingredients: chile de arbol (dried), miltomates (small green tomatoes, most similar to tomatillos), few slices of white onion, 4-5 small garlic cloves (with skin), pinch of salt, a little water
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender for at least a minute.
Hot sauce #2
Ingredients: fresh jalapeño pepper, tomato, few slices of white onion, 4-5 small garlic cloves (with skin), pinch of salt, a little water
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender for seven seconds (this one is blended for less time because it includes fresh, not dried, pepper).
Two very simple tomato sauces, but with fresh ingredients, the flavors were delicious. The green sauce is commonly used for tacos and enchiladas; the red for pizza and spaghetti.
Green tomato sauce
Ingredients: miltomates (or tomatillos), chicken broth, ~6 garlic cloves with skin, few slices of white onion, salt
First boil the tomatillos. Add to blender, cover with chicken broth, add remaining ingredients, blend at least a minute.
Red tomato sauce
Ingredients: tomatoes, chicken broth, ~6 garlic cloves with skin, few slices of white onion, salt
Enchiladas, eggs, etc.
The class focused on teaching us a few basic sauces that are utilized time and again in classic Mexican dishes.
Once we had made our sauces, we whipped up some enchiladas by frying a tortilla, filling it with some sautéed chicken and onion, dipping it in the green or red tomato sauces and then topping with cheese and cream.
Then we made huevos rancheros by frying eggs, covering them in the green and red tomato sauces and sprinkling with cheese.
Watch the slideshow for a few more photos, including shots from Oaxaca's famous markets. To see the captions, you must view it full-screen and choose "show info".
Enjoy and good luck! And please let us know if you make any of these recipes.