While a mole made with a chile native to Turkey may sound unusual (it is!), in a strange way, it makes complete sense. Food historian Rachel Laudan, who is the preeminent source on this topic, posits that “both moles and curries [are] vestiges of the cuisine of medieval Islam, a cuisine that was enjoyed from southern Spain in the west to northern India in the east. The high cuisine of medieval Islam [was] one of the most sophisticated the world had seen…. With the diffusion of Islam, the cuisine was transplanted to new territories. One of the most important was the Iberian Peninsula, whose southern two-thirds came under Arab rule in the eighth century” [Laudan, 2004, The Mexican Kitchen’s Islamic Connection, Aramco World, Volume 55, Number 3]. From Spain, the culinary pathway to Mexico is a clear and direct one. While Mole Poblano is the best known, there are over 300 different moles in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, alone!

Moles of Mexico as sold in the market as pastes or powders (home cooks just add broth), photo by Adriana Almazan Lahl from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Urfa Biber Chile Mole

Spiceology’s Urfa Biber Chile is a sun-dried Turkish Pepper, which we found to be exactly as described on their website with “a dark roasted flavor reminiscent of raisins, chocolate, or coffee […] has a mild heat that builds, and the direct sunlight creates a sensation of smokiness”. In this mole, with its raisin, smoke, spice and a hint of chocolate, the flavor notes of the Urfa Biber Chile are front and center.

(Make 2 quarts, enough for 10-12 servings as a side with protein or 8-10 portions if served alone, with corn tortillas, of course! Prep time: active 2 hours. Cooking level: Intermediate to expert)

Ingredients:

4 Chiles Ancho

2 Chile Pasilla (dried)

4 tablespoons Spiceology Urfa Biber Chile

4 tablespoons raw white sesame seeds

4 small cloves garlic, peeled

2 thick slice Spanish white onion

4 tomatoes

2 plums

1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil

6 tablespoons raisins

4 tablespoons slivered almonds

4 tablespoons raw or roasted pecans

4 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds

2 sticks cinnamon, preferably Mexican

7-8 whole cloves

7-8 whole allspice (Pimentón)

4-5 cups chicken or corn stock, plus ¼ cup to “clean” your blender jar (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons agave

4 tablespoons dark (at least 70% cacao) chocolate, I recommend Dandelion Chocolate’s Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania Chef’s Chocolate)

2 tsp. salt or to taste

1 old corn tortilla as needed

Dry Roast Whole Chiles, Sesame Seeds & Urfa Biber Chile, Onion Slice, Garlic, Tomatoes and Plum:

Preheat comal (or, if unavailable, a heavy non-stick sauté pan) on high heat and dry roast (so no oil) the whole dry chile(s). I like to use a bacon press to make sure all parts of my dried chiles are in contact with the comal. Dried chiles cook very quickly (about 20 seconds per side), you want them to have spots where they have started to blacken, but you don’t want them burnt. Work with cooking thongs, watch chiles carefully, turning frequently.

Next, add chiles to a bowl of cold water to cover; soak for 15-20 minutes, then remove and stems and seeds and add chiles to the blender jar.

Add sesame seeds to the comal (always keep the fire under your comal on high). Cook for 20-30 seconds, being sure not to burn them. Them will begin to jump; at that point remove them to the blender jar. Dry roast onion, tomato, plum and whole garlic cloves on the comal until charred on both/all sides. Next, turn off the stove and quickly dry roast the Urfa Biber Chile on the hot comal for just 30 seconds. Immediately remove from comal to blender jar. Allow plum to cool and remove pit. Add all ingredients you have dry-roasted to the blender jar.

Sauté: Heat 1/4 cup of the oil or enough to cover the bottom of a heavy sauté pan on medium heat and sauté each of the following separately so as to strictly control cooking time. Working with a slotted spoon, be sure to remove every nut or seed between steps so you don’t accumulate burnt pieces in your cooking oil:

  • Sauté raisins for 30-60 seconds, until they puff up and remove to blender jar.
  • Sauté the almonds, moving them around in the pan, until they start to brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Sauté the pecans, moving them around in the pan, until they start to brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Sauté the pumpkin seeds, moving them around in the pan, until they start to brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Sauté the cinnamon stick, turning over once, about 30 seconds.
  • Sauté cloves and allspice quickly, about 20 seconds and remove immediately to blender jar.

Remove chiles from water (they should be soft) and add to blender jar, along with 2 cups of chicken broth, agave and chocolate.

Blend: Blend well until you have a very smooth puree. You may need to work in two batches. (No need to worry about dividing the ingredients evenly between the batches, as everything will end up together).

Adjust your mole for taste and texture: Mix your two batches of mole, if needed, well in a large bowl. Your mole should be the texture of a thick spaghetti sauce. If it is too thick, add more stock. If it is too thin, toast a tortilla on the comal or directly over a flame until edges begin to brown. Add half the tortilla to mole and blend again. Add the other half if needed until you achieve the texture you are looking for (mole will not thicken as it cooks). Strain your mole through a fine sieve.

Cook off your mole: Heat the remaining 6 tbsp. of oil in a thick-bottomed pot or clay Cazuela over medium heat until hot. Add the puréed mole from your blender jar, being careful as the mole will splatter when it hits the oil (you may want to use a splatter screen). Add just a little more stock to your blender jar and swish around to get every bit of the mole, add this liquid to your pot, Cook your mole stirring constantly, until it gets slightly darker and thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 10-15 minutes. Add more broth if needed. Season to taste with salt as needed.

You can save your mole in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or up to a week, or freeze your mole for up to one month. We recommend you divide your mole into two portions, one to use now and one to use later.

Urfa Biber Mole pairs well with any kind of poultry, pork or beef. I paired it here with Pulled Chicken on a Blue Corn Tortilla with Sweet Plantain Purée and topped with Queso Fresco.

If you’d like me to cook this dish, or another from the recipes here on my blog, go to http://www.chefandrealawsongray.com and book me for an In-Home Culinary Experience

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