As a kid, my mom and I would make frequent visits to Plaza Latina (aka El Mercado), a Latin American mini mall in Toronto’s north end. Growing up this was a place where you could get your hair done, pants hemmed and enjoy delicious food. While I played Mortal Kombat on the old arcade consoles, mom would order us the usual patacones, empanadas and mole. Later in life as I started to try more cuisines, I would see something I recognized as a child – Mexican mole. The more I tried traditional Mexican mole, the more I understood how complex it actually is.
Said to originate from Oaxaca and Puebla, this “celebratory sauce” quickly became popular after Mexico’s independence in 1810. Mole comes from the Nahuatl word for sauce – mōlli. Ancient Aztec stories tell of Moctezuma serving mole to Cortés when he first arrived to Mexico. It is likely we will never know the true origins of where Mexican mole originated from. Although, the most heated debate over mole is the amount of ingredients involved. Mexican mole recipes have been known to use close to over 40 ingredients. In my effort to relive my childhood, I’ve simplified the traditional recipe in favour of less ingredients and a shorter cooking time.
Skip the gravy and let this deliciously spicy and rich sauce be the perfect side to your protein and carbs any celebratory meal this winter. I personally like to pair mole with chicken or potatoes, but beef or any vegan substitute works well too.
Mole can be refrigerated and stored for 5 days. Rehydrate with a teaspoon of water, reheat for one minute, mix well and serve.
Soak dried chili peppers in 1 cup of boiling water for at least 10 minutes, allowing the natural oils to filter into the water. Remove the peppers from the water, reserving 1 cup of the water for later. Slice peppers into large chunks and set aside.
Over a stove pot on medium-high heat, add olive oil and cook the anise, clove and peppercorns until fragrant. Add the shallots, hazelnuts and garlic cloves. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomato paste and allow it to turn a deep red – about 5 minutes.
Add the cinnamon stick, golden raisins, cumin, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peppers, oregano and thyme. Stir occasionally until fragrant and seeds are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add orange juice, chicken broth and chili pepper water and cover pot. Simmer on medium-high heat for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
To the liquid mix gradually add the chocolate, ensuring it is well incorporated. Once the chocolate has melted, add the brioche slices and set aside to cool slightly for 5 minutes.
Carefully place the mole mix into a food processor. Blend until smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated.
Serve spiced Mexican mole with the protein of your choice.