Archive for November, 2016
¡Muchos saludos a todos!
Manuel and I had a fine summer filled with food and travel in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Four ladies joined us as we wound up our adventures with a personal tour of Oaxacan traditional markets, which will loom large in our memories. The best mole powders and pastes are made and sold all over Oaxaca City, and as usual we wound up eating our way through the Big Seven Moles of Oaxaca… and it occurred to me that I have never listed these for my foodie friends.
Plenty of people believe “mole” means “bad chocolate sauce”. As it turns out, mole is not a Spanish word at all–it’s Nahuatl, the language the Aztecs were speaking long before the Spanish showed up. Mole is the same word in Nahuatl as salsa in Spanish, which is to say that it means, simply, “sauce”. These great sauces developed fully during the early days of the Spanish occupation of Mexico, and Oaxaca is the epicenter of this great culinary tradition. There is some discussion and dispute as to just which moles make the cut, but the Big Seven generally runs something like this.
NUMBER ONE, first always, is Oaxacan Black Mole. This deepest and most complex delicacy virtually represents the Day of the Dead to the Oaxacan people, gracing many altars during this baroque celebration of death. It contains 30 or more ingredients which may include the regional Chilhuacle Negro (an endangered chile found only around Oaxaca City), mulato, Mexican pasilla, guajillo, and ancho chiles; a burnt tortilla, egg bread, plantain, onion, garlic, sesame, almonds, peanuts, avocado leaf, thyme, marjoram, black pepper, allspice, star anise and cloves. Flavors are balanced with salt and dark brown piloncillo, the first step in Mexican sugar making, usually molded into cones or bars. The preparation of this mole is elaborate, best passed down from cook to cook. It is sold as a spice paste which is melted into homemade chicken stock to serve with poached turkey or chicken, white rice and steamed vegetables.
NUMBER TWO is Amarillo (yellow) or Amarillito (little yellow), a very versatile mole which may be served as a stew with a variety of meats, and/or a combination of steamed chayote, green beans and potatoes and corn masa dumplings. It may contain the ancho, guajilllo, chilcostle and costeño amarillo chiles, as well as Roma tomatoes, onion, garlic, whole cumin seed, cloves, black pepper and toasted tortillas, fresh cilantro and hierba santa, a perfumed herb known as “root beer plant” in the north, as it contains the same fragrant oils used in making the stuff.
NUMBER THREE is Coloradito (light red) from Oaxaca’s Central Valleys. It is a thick , light, sweet sauce made from the chilcostle, guajillo, ancho and pasilla chiles; egg bread, Mexican rustic chocolate, Roma tomato, garlic, salt and dark sweet piloncillo. It may be served with chicken, pork or beef and steamed white rice, garnished with toasted sesame seeds.
FOUR – Verde, or green mole. This is a light, fresh, herbal sauce made with toasted pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, serrano chile, oregano, marjoram, thyme, cloves, allspice, onion, garlic and fresh epazote and hoja santa. Many people serve this mole with stewed white beans as well as light meats or seafood.
NUMBER FIVE is the rare, magical CHICHILO NEGRO made from the complex Chilhuacle Negro, the Mexican pasilla and mulato chiles; tiny tomatillos, red Romas, marjoram, black pepper, cloves and toasted tortillas.
NUMBER SIX is the controversial Manchamanteles (tablecloth stainer), a sweet, fruity mole served with pork and steamed rice for a colorful tropical banquet of a dish which may include fried plantains, ripe pineapple, sweet potatoes, apple, pear and peach along with the rare Chilhuacle Rojo chile of Oaxaca, and the ancho, guajillo, mulato and Mexican pasilla. Some cooks argue that this is really a stew, though the line is a thin one if you consider the Amarillo, Estofado and Almendrado.
In SEVENTH place is Mole Rojo made with the Chilhuacle Rojo, ancho (and perhaps the guajillo, pasilla and cascabel), plus sesame seed, almonds, Mexican rustic chocolate, garlic, onion and fresh epazote.
This spot is shared by Estofado de Pollo con Aceitunas (Stewed Chicken with Olives), which is pretty much the same as Pollo Almendrado (Almond Chicken). These delicious, elaborate stews are made and served with green olives, capers, toasted almonds and pickled jalapeño chiles.
I hope this list inspires you to go even unto Oaxaca City in search of the Big Seven!