June 2011 Archives

Mole Poblano Travels well to Texas

Mole Poblano may not be commonplace in Texas nor just south of the Rio Grande but from time to time you get to taste the rich, complex sauce when perhaps newly arrived friends from Puebla, Mexico make it. Aromatic spices, roasted nuts, seeds, Chiles!molespicesml.jpg     Or you taste it at a wedding because a Texas family uses that old recipe a travelling friend shared with them generations ago.

 CaminoReal.gifI think mole is becoming more available in Texas and Northern Mexico because of digital media and travel.  Travel routes connecting today's Texas, Northern Mexico and Southern Mexico date back to the Texas Indians prior to the 1400's.   The Mexico-US "Camino Real" of the Spaniards, was built upon one of these routes. These ancient routes enabled our native ancestors to learn about each other's cuisines (types of chiles, corn, cooking utensils, pottery, types of beans). With today's digital media I can blog.  I think this accelerated sharing will increase the presence of Mole Poblano on our tables here in Texas and Northern Mexico.

Following is the recipe for the Mole Poblano.  I find it's easier to learn to make it if you think of the types or groups of ingredients as you would an instrument section in a symphony orchestra.  If each group is to  bring its special character and tone to the sauce, the ingredients must be well prepared prior to blending.
14 Black Peppercorns
5 Cloves, whole
1 stick of Mexican canela, 3 inch
1/2 tsp Coriander Seeds
1/2 tsp Anise seeds
These aromatics are to be fried in a bare minimum of Canola oil to the point when they begin to release their aroma.
20 Almonds
2 oz. Pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup Brown Sesame seeds
Chile seeds from the cleaned chiles below.
1 Corn Tortilla, stale
These are to be fried in a small amount of canola oil, each separately, to the point of golden.  NOTE, the pumpkin seeds turn bitter if over-cooked so be attentive.
1 White Onion, halved
3 Garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
6 Tomatillos, quartered
3 tsp Black Raisins,
The tomatoes are to be fried in a small amount of canola oil in high heat to caramelize the starches, and the raisins are plumped, also in the oil.moleongarlsml.jpg The onion and garlic are to be roasted in a cast iron skillet or comal.  Black spots and softness will tell you that they are ready.  Peel off the skin from the garlic after it is cooked.
These are the main attraction in this sumptuous sauce.mulattoanchosml.jpg
8 Mulatto chiles
5 Ancho chiles
6 Pasilla chiles
2 Chipotle chiles
Wipe them clean, seed and devein them.  Reserve the chile seeds for sauteeing as described.
Use 5 oz. Mexican chocolate.  Don't use plain cacao.  The Mexican chocolate has the necessary sugar and additional canela flavor.
Additional sugar and salt will be added at the very end of the process to fine tune the taste of this gastronomic symphony.


  1. Fry the chiles on both sides in 2 Tablespoons Canola oil until they begin to blister and change color. Remove the chiles and soak them in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain them and puree in a blender, adding water as needed. The puree should be very smooth.  If there are large, grainy particles, strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Set aside.
  2. Fry the tomatoes and tomatillos in the remaining oil.  
  3. Using 4 tablespoons of the oil, sauté the raisins until they are plump and change color. Remove the raisins, then saute the almonds, pumpkin seeds, tortillas, reserved chile seeds, and sesame seeds. Add more oil, as needed, to sauté the remaining ingredients.
  4. Dry-roast the onion and garlic in a comal or dry skillet over medium heat. Remove the garlic when the skin begins to brown. Remove and discard the skin. Keep turning the onion until it is soft and has black spots on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a small skillet, add enough oil to sauté the black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and anise seeds until fragrant over medium low heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Blend the dry-roasted vegetables, spices and fried ingredients in batches adding fresh water, as needed, to form a smooth puree. Again, if the particles are large and grainy, strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve.  Set aside.
  7. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the chile puree, stirring frequently, until it changes color and you can see the bottom of the pan when scraped with a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Add the pureed vegetable and spice mixture. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until the mole thickens, about 1 hour.
  8. Add approximately 2 cups of water or mild vegetable broth and continue cooking for 30 minutes. The mole should coat the back of a spoon. Add the chocolate pieces and continue cooking, about 10 minutes. Season alternating with salt and sugar.
  9. Serve the Mole poblano as the main ingredient on the plate with either tortillas, tamales blancos or tamales de frijol.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
  10. Note:  The mole will keep in the refrigerated for two weeks.  Frozen it will keep for about two months.AMhandsmoletamal.jpg

I'm serving it here with bean tamales, sprinkled with sesame seeds.  You can also enjoy it with freshly made hot corn tortillas.  
Different from the French "sauce" concept, Mexican mole is not an accompaniment for a meat.  Although it is often served with turkey breast, Mole is always the main character. 

Adapted from Chef Iliana De La Vega and the "Center for Foods of the Americas, Culinary Institute of America."

Tomato- Basil Bruschetta

This morning I pinched off some beautiful plump Basil leaves for some Bruschetta I'm serving at lunch. Thumbnail image for basilplantsml.jpg I find that in Houston the basil plant has to be in the shade during the blazing heat so either plant it next to a building, a tall bush or place a patio umbrella next to it.

-1 1/2 cup tomato, small dice, fresh from your farmer's market.DO NOT regrigerate the tomato.
-1/2 cup Basil leaves, coarsely chopped
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbsp onion, fine mince
-1 whole garlic clove
-salt to taste
-6 slices Italian or other artisan bread that you like

1.  Toast the bread in a F350o until it is slightly golden. Or you can place the slices under a broiler then flip them. Allow to cool.
2.  In a mixing bowl combine the tomato, olive oil, basil and onion, add salt to taste
3.  Rub each bread slice with the garlic clove to give it a hint of garlic peppery taste
4.  Spread the tomato mixture onto each slice and serve immediately.
Take a nice glass of white Orvieto with this bruschetta.  It's divine.
Horchata is a classic "agua fresca" and also a prime example of how people and food constantly evolve as they define their identity.  A delicious Mexican iced drink of almonds and rice essence, horchata was brought to our region and our people by the Spanish when they came as conquerors.  How did the Spanish learn to make horchata?Horchatasml.jpg  From the Arabs when the Arabs conquered them in Spain during the 8th-13th centuries and made this cool refreshing drink using the tuber, tiger nuts (chufas).  Since tiger nuts are not available in this region, rice and almonds were used and voila a new drink with ancient roots was born.

Every region, from Houston to San Antonio to Oaxaca, has Horchata variations.  Down in Oaxaca the drink is made with rice and almonds and served with a splash of prickly pear puree and cubes of cantaloupe.  Now that's nice!  The Oaxaca recipe follows below.

Here in the TexMex, region, just North and South of the Rio Grande River, the drink is straightforward, leaving out the almonds altogether and using just cinnamon as a seasoning.  The right blending of these ingredients with ice is brilliantly simple, simply brilliant.  Who needs all that other stuff in this heat!

TexMex Horchata
(NOTE: thanks to Melisa Guerra for documenting this and other TexMex recipes in her book, "Dishes From The Wild Horse Desert")
Ingredients  Makes 2 quarts
1/2 cup rice
2 quarts water
2 sticks Canela (Mexican cinammon)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar or to taste

1.  Bring the water, cinammon and rice to a simmer and cook until the rice is just barely tender, about 10-15 minutes
2. Remove the canela and process the rice and water in a blender until the mixture is completely smooth and there are no particles at all.  You may have to do this in small batches.
3.  Pour the mixture into a pitcher and add the sugar according to your taste.
4.  Chill thouroughly,  (at least two hours) and serve over ice. 
You are drinking a unique identity drink of the Arabs, the Spanish and Coahuila Tex-Mex,

Horchata Oaxaqueña (NOTE:  This recipe thanks to Chef Iliana De La Vega of the CIA who tirelessly documents and champions Mexican cuisines)

Ingredients Makes 2 quarts
3/4 Rice, rinsed in a colander
1 cup Almonds, blanched and peeled
1 stick Canela, Mexican cinammon
1 1/2 quart filtered water
3/4 cup simple syrup (you can use agave nectar instead, hmmmm!)
1 cup cubed cantaloupe
1/2 cup pecans pieces
3/4 cup prickly pear puree

1.  Soak the rice, almonds and canela in 3 cups of hot water overnight or for at least 6 hours.
2.  Process the mixture in a blender until completely smooth.
3.  Strain into a pitcher through a fine mesh sieve in order to remove any particles.
4.  Add the simple syrup or the agave nectar according to your taste and chill thoroughly
5.  To serve, place about 1 Tbspn cantaloupe, 1 tspn pecan pieces, and 1 Tbspn of the puree in a tall glass, add ice, then the horchata. Serve with long spoons for stirring.
This will take you to the Northern Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca!

Horchata picture credit: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike
Some rights reserved by K. Yasuhara
It was good to hear the words.  "A great poem is one that resonates with us, that challenges us and that teaches us something about ourselves and the world that we live in."
President Obama, in a relaxed, amiable mood, delivered those opening remarks at An Evening of Poetry at the White House  that I attended last month. (He and the first lady seemed to be energized during the entire evening of poetry.) The event underscored the importance of poetry, music and, unintentionally, food. I'll comment on two moments.

First, the sounds generated by DJ Daniel Musisi (aka moose) during the reception in the East Wing foyer were a combination of digital and vinyl.Musisisml.jpg I loved the street/club/urban pop music feel that he gave to the space and schmooze-chatter.  To me it ratified the importance of  the everyday.
Listen to the entire track of that opening reception, thanks to Daniel who recorded it and uploaded it here:

The second comment is about my favorite food in the sumptuous buffet following the performances. 
WatermelnTwrsml.jpgThe Intense Red of Watermelon!
It was brilliant to  "Techno" the watermelon
slices using the sous-vide technique that vacuums each slice with high precision.
This makes the color shout-out red and also
compresses the flesh slightly.

As you can see from the pic, each devilish slice was topped with white cheese.

The Prosciutto was a nod to the classic past -- but clearly it played a muted secondary, (tertiary after the cheese) role.

I chose these two elements of the whole wonderful evening to say simply that modern techniques always find their way into the sphere of the beautiful and delicious if they are in the hands of true artists.

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