A Labor of Love: The Mexican Recipe that Truly Says 'I Love You'
Wow your Valentine with mole negro, the most complicated sauce ever made
Written by: Arianna Meschia for The Nopo
This Valentine’s day it might not be possible to take your beau for an exciting date night, but why not stun them with a delicious home-cooked Valentine’s dinner?
Courtesy of Édgar Núñez, one of Mexico’s most adored chefs, we have just the plate for you: plátano Manzano and mole negro, an exciting dessert that will take you straight to the heart of Mexican flavors.
In a lot of ways, mole is to Mexico what pasta is to Italy: a simple word that encompasses the most varied and complicated tradition in the country’s cuisine. Its vast array of ingredients coming from Mexican, European, North American, African, and Asian culinary traditions make it the very symbol of Mexico’s mestizaje, the melting-pot identity formed over centuries of cultural traditions mixing.
While the states of Puebla and Oaxaca compete for the attribution of this ever-elusive dish, the origins of the sauce, as well as its name, are steeped in mystery. One story narrates the nuns of the Santa Clara convent in Puebla panicked when the Archbishop announced his sudden visit because they thought themselves too poor to serve him a meal worthy of his rank. They scrambled together anything they could find: chilies, nuts, herbs, spices, and even chocolate. The resulting thick creamy sauce poured over turkey was a success and when one of the nuns was asked what it was, she called it a mole, a mix. More likely, the word itself originates from the ancient Nahuatl language “mōlli”, meaning sauce.
Today, some moles have as many as 40 ingredients: chilies, a sour (like tomatoes), a sweet (dried fruits or sugar), spices, and thickeners (nuts), as well as seeds (sesame, pumpkin, squash), cilantro, grapes, garlic, onions, cinnamon, and chocolate
Édgar serves his plátano Manzano and mole negro as part of his tasting menu in his flagship restaurant Sud 777, in the heart of Pedregal in Mexico City. On your next trip to Mexico, make sure you book a table for a mindblowing fine dining experience, which mixes inventive cuisine based almost entirely around the restaurant’s own seasonal garden with a slick, modern decor inspired by the surrounding tradition of urban design and architecture in Pedregal.
Out of all the moles, mole negro is probably one of the most complicated, and Édgar’s recipe is not one for the faint-hearted. His toasting of the Chilhuacle Negro chilies give the mole its deep black hue and make it work wonders with chicken, corn tortillas, and plantain.
The Best Mole Negro Recipe: plátano Manzano and mole negro
8 mulatto chilies
20 black “Chilhuacle” chilies
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1 dried avocado leaf
700 grams of ripe tomatoes
170 grams of lard
50 grams of walnut
75 grams of almonds
30 grams of peanuts
1 cinnamon stick
30 grams of white bread
2 seedless raisins
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 tables of Oaxaca table chocolate
6 cups of chicken broth
Heat a comal or a griddle over medium heat and toast all the chilies, making sure they don’t burn. Open the chillies, remove their stem and devein. Save the seeds of the Chilhuacle chilies for later, but discard the rest. Soak the cleaned chilies in a bowl with salt and water for 30 minutes until they have softened.
Meanwhile, place the Chilhuacle seeds and the tortilla on the hot comal and toast until slightly burned, then set aside. Now toast the sesame seeds and the avocado leaf while stirring to avoid burning, then set aside.
Roast the tomatoes on the comal for 10-15 minutes, until the skin has burned and begins to peel off, then blend, strain, and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of lard in a large skillet, add the walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cinnamon, white bread, peppers, cloves, and the burned tortilla, and fry until the ingredients turn a golden hue.
Remove from the pan and grind with the toasted raisins, sesame, and avocado leaf (you can use a food processor). Drain the soaked chilles and fry in a large saucepan with 2/3 tablespoons of hot butter. Once they release their oils, add the previous mixture and stir well so that all the ingredients are incorporated.
Meanwhile, grind the chocolate into a powder. Heat the remaining lard in a large clay pot. Pour the previously fried ingredients, add the ground tomato, powdered table chocolate, oregano, and chicken broth. Let it boil over medium heat until it thickens up, then serve over the raw banana and decorate with seasonal flowers.