Be Thankful for Mole

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The photo here is of a tortilla enmolada at Otilia's, one of several restaurants in town that make mole from scratch. The mole of Mexico is a rich gravy, made of combining chile puree (reconstituted dried chiles), fruits, toasted bread, nuts, herbs and, in some cases, chocolate. The gravy is simmered in lard until it develops a surface sheen. Chicken broth is added to thin the gravy a little bit before serving.

Susana Trilling's first book documented her search for the seven most well-known Oaxacan moles (rojo, coloradito, amarillo, manchamanteles, pipian, negro and verde). I've yet to find an authentic Oaxacan mole negro here in Houston but have found some excellent Puebla-style moles. I go to Oaxaca at least once a year and pack "mole to go" for my return trip.

Making mole is not difficult but it does require about four hours to pull everything together. Mole negro is the trickiest of the lot, as it requires a very dark dried chile called chilhuacle negro, black ancho chiles as opposed to red ones, and toasting of all the chile seeds until they are black. I used to joke that, if the mole negro tastes like burning tire rubber, it's just right. If you're interested in learning to make mole, drop me a line here at the Press, as I will be organizing mole and tamale classes between now and Christmas. Also, if you'd like a copy of a spreadsheet that I did that compares the ingredients from six different mole negro recipes, let me know and I will email you a copy.

If you want to try a mole in a restaurant setting, I can recommend the following places. I've tried them all and they are excellent.

Guadalupana Bakery (2109 Dunlavy ) doesn't make their own but they do bring it up from Puebla.

Otilia's (7710 Long Point Road ), Maria Selma (1617 Richmond) and Hugo's (1602 Westheimer) make theirs in house. Hugo's and Otilia's also feature mole verdes.

Mole will be great with your leftover turkey and if you want to pick up some home-made mole, head over to the Farmer's Market on Airline. In the back section behind Canino's (currently being repaired) look for this spice booth ($10 per pound) and this lady.

-- Jay Francis

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