Monday, 14 October 2013

Quick post on mole verde

I don't usually do this, but someone was asking for a recipe for this on my Facebook page, and since my blog backlog is now so long, it may be a while before I get to post the full dish.

So over the weekend I made mole verde, which some people (including me) believe is the same thing as pipián. (Both are a rich Mexican stew/sauce thickened with pumpkin seeds.)

I haven't made all seven yet, but I believe this is the easiest of the moles. And this is how you make it.

  • 6 tomatillos
  • 100 g pumpkin seeds, hulled (I used half pumpkin seeds and half sesame seeds; some recipes even add peanuts)
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Green chiles to taste (I used 2 chiles serranos, 1 chile jalapeño, and about half of a chile poblano)
  • A bunch of coriander
  • 1tsp of dried epazote
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • A 5 cm stick of Mexican cinnamon
  • A pinch of cumin seeds (say, 1/8 tsp)
  • Stock (homemade if possible)
  • Salt
  • Oil or lard for frying

This, plus some stock, is about all you need

Peel the papery husks off the tomatillos and rinse them well under warm water - their skins will be sticky. Boil them for about ten minutes until they go a paler, translucent shade of green, just like tinned tomatillos.

If you're using tinned tomatillos in the first place, just open the tin and drain them.

You may recall that when making salsa verde I opt for roasting the raw tomatillos on a hot dry frying pan or comal. I still think that gives the best flavour for salsa verde, even though it's non-tradish. But for this recipe I go by the book and boil the tomatillos.

While the tomatillos are boiling, heat a dry frying pan over a quite high heat. Put the pumpkin seeds in the pan wait until the first one pops. Then stir constantly until they all (pretty much) pop. 

Remove them and let them cool slightly, then grind them in a molcajete (mortar and pestle).

If you're using any other nuts or seeds, repeat with one kind at a time, but stir constantly from the start, add most seeds will burn quickly (especially sesame seeds).

Roast the garlic in the pan with the skin still on until it comes up in black spots on all sides. Let it cool. The skins should come off easily.

If you're using whole spices, toast each kind separately in the hot dry frying pan until it releases its aroma, then remove and grind as with the seeds/nuts.

(The spices are only a guide, by the way. You can use any or all or none of these. The seasoning will be subtle in the finished sauce, but you'll know they're there. Don't use too much, though, because these are warm spices and you don't want to clash with the fresh green flavours.)

If you're using a chile poblano, use tongs to hold it over the open flame on your hob until the skin blisters on all sides, like this:

Back in black!
Put the poblano in a sealed plastic bag to cool for a few minutes, then peel the blackened skin off. Stem and seed the chile.

The other two types of chiles I just stemmed and sliced into rings. Because I like it hot. 

Roughly chop the onion. 

Put everything except the seeds/nuts, spices, and stock into a blender and blend to a smooth texture. Don't worry about over-blending, because the finished sauce should be very smooth. 

At this point you basically have a kind of salsa verde.

Now add the seeds/nuts and spices to the blender, about a quarter at a time, and continue blending. The sauce will get paler and thicker each time you add more of the pumpkin seed/spice mixture. By the end it will be very thick. 

Heat some oil or lard in a pan. when it's hot enough to make a drop of the sauce sizzle, add all the sauce (it will take some doing to scrape all of it out of the blender; I use a hand-blender and a plastic jar so I don't have to worry about the blades).

Stir constantly for a couple minutes until the sauce thickens even more. Then start adding the stock a little at a time until the sauce thins to a pourable consistency. 

It's nearly ready!
Taste for salt. If you're using a stock cube, you probably won't need any more salt. If you're using homemade stock, you may well do. 

The best way to get your own stock is to poach some chicken breasts with a chopped up onion, a couple cloves of garlic, maybe some celery and carrots, a sprig of some kind of herb like oregano, maybe some black peppercorns, etc. 

The chicken will go great with the finished mole and you can use the poaching water as a stock. Just add the chicken breasts to the simmering sauce in time for it to heat all the way through. Then serve on a bed of arroz a la poblana (which will use up the other half of that poblano chile you'll have spent twenty minutes prepping).

This may well be my favourite Mexican sauce ever.