Monday, 12 December 2011

Mole Poblano Prologue: I am insane

[First published 12 December 2011 - The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - just before I took my Christmas break from posting. It sets out my plan for cooking mole poblano over the holidays.]

There is something seriously wrong with me.

I could spend Christmas happily eating leftovers, cheeseboards, chocolate, and other easy, unhealthy foods whole sitting on my ass watching bad television.

Instead, I'm going to cook something that has between 26 and 34 ingredients (depending on the recipe) and takes up to four days to prepare.

This Christmas I am going to attempt the national dish of Mexico: mole poblano de guajolote.

I'm not, however, planning to have this on Christmas Day. The traditional British Christmas dinner is the highlight of my year. But since we'll never eat all that turkey in one night, even with the obligatory midnight turkey sandwich, we'll still have heaps left over.

So I'm going to serve the leftovers with the traditional mole sauce. Right now, there are voices in my head saying "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

What makes this plan especially ridiculous is that I have some perfectly good mole paste in my fridge right now. It actually came from Mexico and is absolutely delicious (I've tried it). But no, I'm going to make my own.

I am a very sick man.

Amazingly, I already have all but three of the ingredients in my house, which is probably an indication of how much of MexiGeek. I even have some Mexican chocolate I got from Jordan Valley on Nicholson Street. I don't know why they had Mexican chocolate, but we found it when we went in for pumpkin mix before Thanksgiving.

What I'm missing is the holy trinity of mole: the three chiles, ancho, mulato, and pasilla, without which it just ain't mole. So it's another trip to Lupe Pinto's this weekend.

I have four possible recipes to use for this dish. The longest one, Rick Bayless's, takes 6 hours if you do it all at once, though he recommends spreading it out over several days.

The shortest one, Thomasina Myers's, only takes one and a half hours, but that's probably a masterchef-style blitz of activity that I could really do without on Boxing Day.

And in any case, all four recommend making the sauce in advance and letting the flavours mingle in the fridge. Fine by me.

However, it does put me in a bit of a bind. Ideally I would like to make a stock from the turkey to use for the mole. If I do that, I cannot start making the mole until the morning of the 26th at the earliest. But I am hoping to have the mole made and in the fridge by the end of Christmas Day.

Then all I have to do is heat it gently on the hob and serve.

There are only two options: either have the mole on the 27th (and risk having no more leftover turkey), or use a different stock. Sadly, I think it's option 2 for me, which is a shame, because I have never made stock in my like and I really want to.

In the meantime, I am reading and re-reading all four recipes and making notes, because as a further indication of my unsound mind, I don't intend to use any one recipe. I'm going to create my own variation based on the best bits of all four.

This goes even for the ingredients. I am using raisins because all four recipes call for them, but I am forgoing prunes, which are only called for in one recipe (and because I hate them).

My plan of attack so far is to prep the chiles by seeding and deveining them and cutting them into small, flat pieces on day one. Then I will toast the seeds and nuts and grind them in my molcajete.

On day two, which will be Christmas Eve, I will:
  • Get up ass-early and drive to a farm to collect our turkey
  • Fry the chiles and then soak them in hot water for an hour
  • Roast and crush a tomato
  • Fry almonds, raisins, onion, and garlic, in that order; then add them to the crushed tomato along with the ground seeds and spices, stale corn tortilla crumbs, stale brioche crumbs, and a bit of Mexican chocolate
  • Blitz the chiles, sieve them, then fry them again until the mixture gets nice and thick
  • Blitz the other stuff, fry it until it thickens, then add the chile mixture and some stock and simmer for a really long time
Once the sauce is done simmering, I can refrigerate it, or even freeze it. I plan to make a helluva lot, so I may freeze as much as half straight away.

Day three is Christmas Day. My mole sauce will be maturing in the fridge.

On day four, I will reheat the sauce gently on the hob, adding more stock if necessary. About 20 minutes before serving, I will add the leftover turkey. I am considering frying it in butter first, to give it colour and texture, and because frying things in butter rocks.

This may be the national dish of Mexico, but it can be a rustic dish in terms of presentation. Also, the sauce is unavoidably brown, and one thing I've learned from years of watching Masterchef is that it's very hard to make brown food look elegant.

Therefore I will be serving the mole on a neat stack of arroz verde, with a ring of sauce around the inner edge of the plate. The rest of the sauce will be in a serving dish on the table.

For an additional side I'm planning one of Thomasina's salads: a winter salad of caramelized pecans and goat's cheese. I would like to serve this on side plates, on a fried corn tortilla for additional texture.

Lastly, additional warm tortillas will be in a basket on the table.

Anyone who would like to join us for dinner, leave a comment.