Mole is a Miracle

Today I tried my hands at making Mole.
Years ago I'd ripped out a mole recipe and stuffed it into one of my sketchbooks. I recently rediscovered it and decided yesterday to try and make it. Whenever I go out to Mexican restaurants one of my favorite dishes to try is the house mole. I am searching for a memory of Mole I had in Oaxaca, Mexico back in the fall of 2004.

Granted I was in my mid twenties backpacking through southern Mexico alone. I'd just left a wild new romance in Mexico city for some time on my own to think and explore. With little sleep on the bus ride from D.F., I arrived into Oaxaca battling a cold. Walking into the main market in Oaxaca, I remember feeling both intimidated and energized by the rows of stalls selling fruit, licuados, home made artesania, and cuts of meat. As I arrived at the comida corrida, all the grandmother's voices called me over, I could barely decide which bench and little kitchen to visit. I can't remember what the woman looked like, but I remember the red and white checked plastic table cloth she had placed on the table. I sat down, inhaled the aromatic smells, and ordered the mole with a coffee.

It arrived on a modest white plate, the chicken was shredded, the mole poured over the chicken and onto the rice. Tortillas were neatly rolled up on a side plate for mole dipping. From what I remember this mole was comforting and complicated, I could taste a hint of chocolate, but it was mixed in with so many other unimaginable flavors that I could barely discern. Forgetting my sickness and crazy boyfriend, I found myself temporarily healed as I finished the plate.

I have never been able to relocate the taste of that mole. This is what I love about mole that it is a mystery and that is uniquely seasoned by every region and cook across the world. Every person does things a little different.

As I shopped for and prepared my mole, I marveled at the ingredients; plantains, tomatillos, chiles, allspice, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, oregano, cumin, coriander, raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and more. Perusing recipes, I realized all the different techniques to cook the parts of the mole and the chicken; pan cook the nuts, grill the fruits in lard, heat the chiles in warm water. Settling back on my original recipe with a few improvisations, I asked for Cam's help in the last minute as I worried that it didn't taste quite right. A bit more chocolate and salt and voila! I made a great Mole, not as good as the Oaxaqueno grandma's, but that one was tied with memories, location, and home-cooking, like a good mole it was complicated and it maybe to perfect to ever replicate.


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