Ingredient of the Week: Mole

What is it? You can't live in this great city of ours and escape the enigma that is mole, the complex, dramatic sauce that covers enchiladas, chicken and even French fries (if that sort of thing suits you).

It's pronounced moh-lay, just in case you've been living under a rock (or you're a Yankee), and it takes on many, many forms. Technically, "mole" refers to an entire genre of sauces used in Mexican cuisine - some red, some green, some different from any color you've ever seen. Mole is usually cooked, and it's thick and intense, whereas salsa is thinner and fresher-tasting.

The one we bought for our research purposes was labeled Mole Poblano. This particular version is full of ground sesame seeds (the first ingredient), toasted bread, dried red peppers, cocoa and plenty of spices. Different versions contain endless varieties of ingredients - from pepitas to raisins, each recipe is dependent on the family, restaurant or region making it.

What is it used for?

Traditionally, mole is used as a sauce over chicken, but according to Wikipedia, some say turkey was the original vehicle for the thick, sweet, rich sauce. It can be used to top just about anything - tortillas, enchiladas, pork, etc.

Due to its labor-intensive preparation, mole is usually made in large batches for special occasions. Each family usually has its own special recipe.

Where can you buy it in Houston?

Any fruteria, carniceria or traditional grocery store - even certain restaurants would probably sell you a quart or so. However, we suggest you find a good recipe, purchase the ingredients, and set out on your own mole adventure.


Oaxacan Black Mole With Braised Chicken: Courtesy of Huffington Post (and Rick Bayless)

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