05 September 2006

rhymes with olé

We have a pretty busy week ahead of us, including my first round of classes for my new volunteer project: being a weekend docent at the Corcoran. I'm tremendously excited. It's been one of my favorite museums for a decade now, and I've wanted to be a docent there for almost that long. The program is somewhat intensive (classes three nights this week, four nights next week, and more to come), so I thought I'd get ahead on some cooking.

One of my favorite standard recipes is for Mole sauce. I should say first that my recipe is far from the traditional version, which, as best I can tell, takes three days to prepare (three days during which you pretty much stay in the kitchen), and uses more peppers (fresh, roasted, dried, etc.) than I even knew existed.

See one intimidating version here . Someday when I have time, I really will do it, but for now:

This recipe still has plenty of ingredients, but more of the "let me dig into the back of the pantry" than the "let me run down to Mexico" variety. It isn't too labor-intensive, and can be made in about an hour. And if that still seems like a lot of work, keep in mind that it would make more than enough sauce for you to serve at a large dinner party. We usually have plenty for a half dozen meals. I keep some in the fridge, and freeze some right away. It's great on chicken, pork, veggies...probably almost anything...if you've never had it, try it on turkey or chicken first to get the traditional effect.

Okay, so -- here you go! I cribbed from an 1993 issue of Gourmet to get started.

Easy Mole Sauce

3 cups chopped onion (white or yellow)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp anise seeds
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp allspice
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp raisins
2 cups chicken (or veggie) broth
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned is great, just drain them first)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
sesame seeds for garnish

In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onions in oil over medium heat, until brown (as if you were making French onion soup). Meanwhile, in a mortar with a pestle combine coriander and anise seeds. (Or grind them in a coffee grinder. Or use pre-ground.) In a small bowl, blend the ground coriander and anise with the chili powder, sugar, cinnamon, oregano, and allspice. In a separate small bowl, combine garlic and salt and mix or crush into a paste. Once onions are browned, add spice mixture and saute for one minute. Stir in cocoa powder, peanut butter, raisins, broth, tomatoes, and garlic paste. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender, here's your chance to use it! (If you don't have one, this is a great excuse to go get one. You'll love it. A regular blender will work absolutely fine, though, it's just more work because you have to transfer the sauce into it.)

Using a blender, puree the sauce to thin it to the desired consistency. (I like to get rid of all chunks, but stop just this side of silky smooth so that the sauce still has some body to it.)

We're having this tonight with fajitas. I forgot to say that Mole is a great alternative to salsa if you leave it fairly thick. Tell me if you have more ideas!

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