Yesterday I made mole sauce. For a first attempt I think it wasn't bad! I used the Rick Bayless recipe on his website.
There are a bunch of ingredients -- chiles, nuts, chocolate, bread, garlic, sesame seeds, raisins, tomatillos and spices -- and I went to 2 groceries: Super Compare for the chiles and chocolate, and Whole Foods for everything else. Instead of lard I used some duck fat we had saved from smoking a duck last week. I thought the smoke flavor might add a little depth to the sauce. Besides, mole is a special food, and what's more special than freshly rendered duck fat?
It's not super difficult to make, just time consuming and messy. At one point I think every dish in the house was dirty! I managed to get most of them washed during the "cook down the chile puree" phase. Which requires constant stirring, but I found that for the first 10-15 minutes I could get away with stirring once a minute or so. It was kind of funny: wash a dish, turn around and stir, wash another dish, turn around and stir... When it did need constant stirring, Bayless had a really good tip: use a spatter screen. I held it over the pan, tilted just a bit so I could get the spoon in. It really, really helped with cleanup.
Bayless says to cook the chile puree down to the consistency of tomato paste, but on the show he stopped short of that, cooking it more to the texture of apple butter. Like, when you stir you can see the bottom of the pan for a second or two before it fills in. I went with that, not tomato paste which is so thick you can literally cut it with a knife and it will hold its shape. Maybe he uses some kind of fancy pants chef tomato paste which isn't quite as thick.
I think I did the chile puree right because I got the Bayless seal of approval! I follow his Twitter feed, so I posted a photo of my finished puree on Twitter. He retweeted my photo and added "Beautiful, it's going to be good!" He does that a lot, retweeting photos of people making his recipes. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, taking time almost every day to encourage people online.
Of course when the chile puree was finished, the recipe wasn't even half finished. It's a complicated recipe: stem and seed dried chiles, fry them in hot oil, soak them in water, puree the chiles and soaking liquid in a blender, strain the puree and cook it down, stirring constantly, for 1/2 hour or so (this is when the photo on the right was taken). Then mix together all the other ingredients with some water, puree in the blender, strain, add to the puree and cook down again, stirring constantly. Then add stock and let it simmer, stirring frequently, for a couple of hours. Then you're ready to cook whatever else you need for your meal. Whew!
Honestly I wouldn't have done it if I had realized how much time it would take. I mean, I knew mole took all day but I didn't realize that meant standing in front of the stove the entire time. Actually not the entire time; the last couple of hours didn't need constant attention. I think I was in the kitchen for about 5 hours. And I was so tired I stupidly forgot to take photos of the finished meal. Tonight we're going to make tacos with the leftovers and I'll try to remember to get a photo.
The only thing I think I really did wrong was straining -- my strainer was too fine and I had a heck of a time getting the "everything but the chiles" mixture through it. I think we lost too much of those flavors in the strainer. Before making mole again I will definitely get another strainer.
The other thing I would change is to make it less spicy. I forgot how hot Bayless likes his Mexican cooking, and I didn't think to modify the proportion of chiles in his recipe. Whoa, was it ever hot. I had to have it with lots of rice or I couldn't eat it at all. We're going to cut the leftovers in a "mole cream sauce" to make it a little less spicy. Next time I will find out which of the chiles -- pasilla or mulato -- is so spicy, and use less of that one & more ancho instead.