Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Long Green Mole


This wonderful cooking adventure began a couple of weeks ago. I was reading a beautiful post at Cream Puffs In Venice about a delicious Crepes Suzette recipe. Ivonne told the story of finding Mrs. B at Eating Suburbia who was editing a cookbook (The World is a Kitchen) to be released in August. Mrs. B had invited fellow bloggers to test the recipes from the upcoming book. This caught my interest. What does a teacher want when school is out? An assignment, of course! I contacted Mrs. B at her wonderful site and she sent me the names & descriptions of 4 recipes. The only recipe I eliminated was one which included snails, as I wasn't so sure I could find them. I told her I would be willing to do any of the others. My assignment--a 22 ingredient Mole Verde--one of the 7 Moles of Oaxaca. Mrs. B told me it would take "stamina" to complete this recipe and I gladly accepted what I viewed as a challenge. This was a cooking adventure that taught me to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

I quickly perused the list of ingredients and was pleased to discover that I actually had most of them. There were only a small number that I would search for at a store that I knew would have them if anyone would--epazote, yerba santa, chile de arbol. Visiting the market was a story in itself. Everyone was very helpful when I explained what I was doing. The produce manager directed me to the fresh epazote & chile de arbol. The bakery manager directed me to the store manager who directed me to the yerba santa leaves (turns out to be a type of "mint"). Couldn't resist the pastry while visiting with the bakery manager. I just felt compelled to buy something (you'll see why later). Brought home pumpkin & sweet potato filled empanadas, yoyos(strawberry & coconut), cherry & apple fritters, & a cute corn shaped pastry filled with raspberry! To top off an interesting trip (which I thought would be a short routine grocery run) the president of the entire 3 state grocery chain popped in for an unannounced visit & bagged my groceries! It was a great trip and I met a lot of nice people and came home with lots of good stuff. DH always says I'd talk to anyone (I don't mean that in a bad way--he says it out of concern). I think he thinks I must be related to the famous humorist from our home state (Oklahoma)--Will Rogers--never met a stranger. Anyway, I digress.

Ingredients assembled, the first thing was to clean & soak small white beans overnight. That part I knew I could do. I read & re-read the recipe & hoped it would turn out. I issued instructions that the morning belonged to me & the kitchen was "off limits", although I know we had breakfast and I seem to remember a turkey sandwich in there somewhere for DH. If we were to sit down and talk I would tell you every single detail of every step of the process. DH says I am long winded--he's right. I just don't want to leave any detail out that might be important. I would just like to say that this was a wonderful recipe & a wonderful experience from start to finish. Don't be stifled if you see a recipe with many ingredients or a "difficult" rating. Give it a try. It may not be perfect, but you will be richer for the experience of the journey & I still believe there are more successes than failures.

I will take this mole & make it mine next time. It was a wonderfully green tasting, light (yes, light) dish. Green, green everywhere. Layers of flavor--the green of the leafy ingredients, celery, peppers, tomatoes, & tomatillos. A few of the tomatoes, tomatillos & the bay leaf from my garden. That gave me a bit of satisfaction. The great corn flavor from the masa. Heat--but not burn your mouth down--from the peppers. Never made a pork stock and frankly, didn't even think it sounded good. The stock was absolutely wonderful & light. Seasoned with the fresh bay leaf, peppercorns and allspice. Didn't think it would be possible to make a dish with 9 big jalepenos and not be crying but when I make it again(I call it making it mine)I'll add more--even thought it was absolutely delicious the way it was. It really is true-when you remove the seeds & membrane from peppers you can taste the wonderful flavor & not just the heat. I'll never make any stock again without the addition of allspice. I'm a very meticulous & slow cook on any day. I am a fanatic about cleanliness in the kitchen. I scrub everything--maybe it is not necessary, but I do it. Just a few more notes & then the recipe. I think a mole is a very individual thing. If you make one, add & subtract as you like. It wll be like your stamp on it--on anything. Like your Dad's special chili or Grandma's fried chicken or Mom's apple pie. There are common ingredients but they all do something special that makes it theirs. A few days ago I read the magnificent Cooking Diva-Melissa's version of mole that I can't wait to try. I know it won't be as beautiful as hers, but I can enjoy the process--the journey--as well as the destination--wonderful food! Just for those who haven't tasted some of these things before--epazote is a leafy green with what I would describe as having a slightly medicinal but not bad taste. Yerba Santa leaves are fresh & minty & in fact I think next time I could substitute a bit of mint (maybe spearmint) from the garden. Italian flat leaf parsley is great but you could use curly leaf if that is what you have. Chile de arbol is in the pork stock & when tasted before cooking was not hot but after cooking it was hot. I cooked the pork longer than suggested just because it wasn't tender yet. When using ablender with hot ingredients--remember--it gets explosive in there! Vent it! Unless you have an unusually large blender bowl, you might want to blend in batches. I was true to the recipe but when I make it again I would probably use less garlic, more jalepenos, less epazote, more parsley & mint. I would make it in stages. Make the beans & pork the first day & assemble on the 2nd day.

Thank you to the fantastic Mrs. B for giving me the ticket to this experience. (Find Mrs. B at
http://eatingsuburbia.blogspot.com/ )I loved every minute! Even DH, who isn't crazy about this kind of cooking announced it was very good. Said it was like ham & beans! Well, I guess it is a form of pork with beans. Here is the recipe if you have stuck with me this long, you can make the Long Green Mole. Enjoy!

Mole Verde
Serves 8
"This mole, from Susana Trilling's Seasons of My Heart, is one of the seven legendary moles of Oaxaca. Unlike the dark moles with their voluttuous richness, this one tastes fresh & bright, vibrant &, somehow, green, even when you close your eyes." (Quote supplied by Mrs. B along with the recipe)

1 white onion, sliced
1 garlic bulb
1 carrot, peeled & thickly sliced
3 celery ribs, with leaves
1 bay leaf
1 whole allspice
1 chile de arbol
5 black peppercorns
Kosher salt
1 pound baby-back ribs, cut Chinese style
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, in 2-inch cubes
3/4 cup dried small white beans, soaked overnight & cooked in salted water until tender
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed
1 pound green tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 medium white onion, cut into chunks
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated & peeled
9 large fresh jalapenos, seeded
2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
8 ounces prepared corn masa for tortillas or 1 cup masa harina for tortillas mixed with 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup epazote leaves
1/2 cup yerba santa leaves, ribs removed
Black pepper to taste

Pour 3 quarts of cold water into a large soup pot & add the sliced onion, whole garlic bulb, carrot, celery ribs, bay leaf, allspice, chile de arbol, whole peppercorns, baby-back ribs & pork shoulder. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and skim off any foam that forms on the surface of the liquid. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Use tongs to transfer the ribs & shoulder to a plate. Increase the heat to high & simmer 15 minutes more. Strain the stock into a clean container & discard the vegetables. Season the stock to taste with salt.

Put the tomatillos in a 2-quart saucepan & add enough water to just cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low & simmer until they just change color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain & place in the container of a blender, along with the green tomatoes, chunks of onion, garlic cloves, jalapenos & 1 cup of the reserved pork stock. Puree until smooth. Pour the oil into a large soup pot set over high heat. When it smokes, add the pureed tomatillo mixture & stir continuously, until hot, about 10 minutes. Put the masa in a blender and add 2 cups of pork stock. Puree until smooth & stir into the tomatillo mixture. Simmer over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.

Put the parsley, epazote & yerba santa in the blender & add enough pork stock to blend well. Pour the herb mixture into the tomatillo mixture & simmer over low heat for 15 minutes more. Add salt & pepper to taste. At this point, the mole should be thick enough to coat a spoon but no thicker; if it seems too thick, thin with a little of the reserved pork stock. Return the ribs & shoulder meat, along with the cooked white beans, to the stock & simmer gently to heat through.

Ladle the mole into soup plates, making sure each serving includes a rib & a piece of shoulder topped with lots of sauce & beans. Serve immediately, with hot corn tortillas alongside.



Some of the fresh mole ingredients--
Finished delicious Mole Verde--
Cooked beans & pork heating in pork stock--
Tasty pastry from the grocer's Mexican Bakery--
Souvenirs of a long ago trip to Mexico--

Hey, who drank my Mexican Coca-Cola ;-)

11 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. B said...

Oh you are truly an angel. I knew this would be a long and complicated process, but I love the way you present it as a journey. Thank you so much for the detailed notes and care with which you wrote this post.

20 June, 2006 15:46  
Blogger K & S said...

very nice post!

20 June, 2006 16:18  
Blogger Paz said...

What a fun cooking adventure! And delicious, too! Yum!

Paz

22 June, 2006 03:44  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

Just gorgeous, Fran!

Well done!!!

22 June, 2006 11:43  
Blogger Fran said...

Thank you Mrs.B, K&S, Paz & Ivonne. Wish we could have shared the meal. It really was delicious.

25 June, 2006 13:42  
Blogger Typical INgredients said...

Hi Fran,

How are you?

So your theme for today is all about "Mexican Food" I got jealous! But wait, what's the different bet. the Mexican Coke and the one we have here in the U.S.? Mole is good but I never try making my own recipe hey, thanks for sharing.

Tin

29 June, 2006 13:06  
Blogger valentina said...

Fran, what lovely reading. I fell in love with the recipe without even trying it - just by reading your wonderful post.Thank you for sharing it all.

07 July, 2006 13:55  
Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

I wish I have some of your wonderful mole now...We are going through rainy days, the perfect time for this precious dish...

Un abrazo,
M

08 July, 2006 13:01  
Blogger Fran said...

Hi Tin--Mexican Coca Cola is supposed to be made with cane sugar & not high fructose corn syrup. Some say they can't tell the difference, but some absolutely love it. It does seem different to me, a little less sweet & more fizzy & there is that great green glass bottle!

Dear Valentina--I am very flattered! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Hello Melissa--I would be happy to share! Wish I had more. It is only a memory now! What I really wish is that I had some of your lovely Mole. It is on ny list. We have just entered our monsoon season here in the desert. Dry thunderstorms so far. Those cloudy days make me want comfort food.

08 July, 2006 15:33  
Anonymous Tanna said...

And thank you for sharing the journey. It is way to easy to get too focused on that destination isn't it.
Wonderful write up.
So glad I visited.

02 August, 2006 02:29  
Blogger Jade said...

That sounds really tasty! I'm sure it was much better than pork & beans. :) Sounds like you had a fun cooking experience, start to finish.

04 August, 2006 09:40  

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