Monday, April 26, 2010
CINCO DE MAYO-May 5
I love Mexican food with the regional flavors, styles of cooking and varied ingredients. When I started keeping kosher, I didn't want to give up one of my favorite cuisines-so I learned to cook it at home. Once you understand the fundamentals of real Mexican food with its vast array of ingredients and layering of flavors-it becomes easy to experiment and explore the many regions.
This is not the Mexican food of many American Mexican style restaurants with cheese covering the plate and sauces out of a jar. This is the real deal. It is complex and delicious. It is also intricate and requires some organization. The payoff is in the flavor and "wow" factor. I make extra sauce and freeze it. That way I can pull out sauce and have a meal in minutes.
If you have never tried a mole, now is the time. The complex, layered flavors and fragrant spices, earthy chiles, and velvety chocolate can bring any main course to life. Making a mole will also test any cooks mettle; it requires organization, timing, and several cooking methods. But trust me; this heavenly sauce is worth the trouble. I often crave slow-cooked sauces with layer upon layer of flavor. This sauce is an example of the type of flavors I long for. So I get myself organized and dig in. Once all of the ingredients are prepped, the slow cooker will do the rest.
I make this sauce so often I can do it in my sleep. I always find my ingredients at Latin markets. Recently I noticed that my local organic grocery store started carrying large quantities of chiles and other Latin ingredients. The chiles are usually packaged in large bags. “Fresh” dried chiles should be soft and very pliable, like a raisin with a deep color. They should smell very earthy. The chiles in this recipe are not spicy hot, but have a complex, rich, sweet-zippy flavor.
A deep-fry or candy thermometer will help you for this recipe. The mole can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
8 dried ancho chiles
15 dried mulato chiles
Neutral-flavored oil such as canola
1/2 cup raw unblanched almonds
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 corn tortillas
2 slices of stale white bread (leftover challah works nicely)
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 avocado leaf (can be found in Latin markets)
One 3-inch stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
2 cups drained canned whole peeled plum tomatoes
8 cups Chicken Stock or Turkey Stock, or Vegetable Stock
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut, grated or finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1. Line a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels or with clean brown paper bags. Stem and seed the chiles. Reserve the seeds; you will need 1/4 cup.
2. Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Fry the chiles in small batches until they have darkened, about 10 seconds. Remove the chiles with a wire skimmer and drain them on the sheet pan. Set aside the pan with the oil. After the chiles have cooled, place them in a large bowl, cover with water, and soak until they have softened, about 1 hour.
3. While the chiles are soaking, bring the oil back up to 350 degrees. Fry the almonds until they are browned, about 1 minute. Remove with the wire skimmer and place on the sheet pan to drain. Fry the raisins until they are puffed, about 30 seconds. Remove with the wire skimmer and place on the sheet pan to drain. Fry the pepitas until they begin to pop, about 20 seconds. Remove with the wire skimmer and place on the sheet pan to drain. Fry the tortillas and bread until they are both browned and crispy, about 1 minute. Remove with the wire skimmer and place on the sheet pan to drain. Add the onion and garlic and fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Pour the onion mixture and oil through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof container. Set aside the onions. Let the oil cool completely and discard it. Wipe out the pan and set it aside for later.
4. In a small dry sauté pan over medium-high heat, toast the reserved chile seeds until they are very fragrant and have darkened, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a plate to cool. Toast the sesame seeds until browned, about 1 minute. Transfer to the plate to cool. Toast the avocado leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and coriander and anise seeds until fragrant and lightly colored, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate to cool. Process all the toasted ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until finely ground.
5. Remove the chiles from the water and reserve the water. Combine the chiles, almonds, raisins, pepitas, tortillas, bread, onion-garlic mixture, ground spice, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Puree the ingredients in small batches in a blender or food processor. (You may need to break up the tortillas and bread into smaller pieces first.) Use the reserved chile soaking liquid as necessary to help puree the mix.
6. Pass the puree through a fine-mesh strainer or food mill. (This ensures a velvety mole.)
7. Place the saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom with oil. Lightly brown the paste. Transfer the paste to the insert of a 6 1/2-quart slow cooker. Stir in the stock, chocolate, salt, pepper, and sugar.
8. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and sugar.
For the Turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 4- to 5-pound skin-on boneless turkey breast, cut in half along the breastbone
3 to 4 cups Mole Poblano (see above)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat a 6 1/2-quart slow cooker to Low.
2. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Salt and pepper the turkey breast. Brown the breast halves one at a time on the skin side until the skin is deeply browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the breast halves to the slow cooker insert.
3. Add the mole poblano. Cover and cook on Low for 4 to 5 hours, depending upon how much the turkey breast weighed. The larger the breast, the longer it will take; 5 hours is for a large breast.
3. Remove the turkey breast halves from the slow cooker. Slice crosswise with a very sharp knife. Place the slices on a platter and ladle the sauce over the turkey. Garnish with sesame seeds, chopped parsley, and cilantro. Serve the turkey with your choice of accompaniments.