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Mole Poblano - a Tradition in Puebla, Mexico

Puebla, Mexico, is responsible for giving us some famous dishes, including Chiles en Nogada (poblano chiles in a walnut sauce) and the featured recipe here - Mole Poblano. In fact, poblano means Puebla, or Pueblan, and mole (pronounced MOH-lay) refers to a rich sauce that incorporates chocolate. In many cases, mole is served with meats and blended with rice and beans, too.


This city is also the reason we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, meaning the 5th of May. It's actually more of a party in the U.S. than in Mexico. Regional fiestas are held in Mexico City and Puebla, which was a literal battleground in 1862. On that date, a small force, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated French troops at well more than twice their number. While it was a short-lived victory, the pride of this small group became a reason for annual festivities in the zocalo, or town square, and well beyond. Today, Cinco de Mayo is a reason to commemorate cultural heritage and traditions.

A mole sauce is rather time-consuming and should be made a day ahead of time. However, plenty of ready-made sauces are also available that are wonderful substitutes - all you add is the poultry. Mexican chocolate is dark and typically sold in small disks. It's a blend that also includes cinnamon and sugar along with a hint of vanilla and, sometimes, nuts. Go easy when you're experimenting with this dish the first time - it can easily overwhelm. The chocolate flavor should be delicate and noticed more on the back of the palate.

In a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, you'll want to include other dishes of course. Perhaps start out with a sopa de elote (corn soup) and add an arroz verde (green rice) along with homemade flour or corn tortillas.

Mole Poblano (Puebla Style Mole)
Serves 6

3-pounds turkey or chicken
1 medium onion
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon black pepper

In a large stockpot, add the chicken with water to cover. Include the onion (quartered), plus the bay leaf and black pepper. Bring all to a boil, then simmer until the chicken is done, about one hour. Remove and allow to drain. Reserve the stock.

2 poblano peppers (or 2 anchos, which is the dried version)
4 mulato peppers (dark, sweet, but can substitute anchos)
3 pasilla chiles (dried chilcas, but can substitute either of the two above ingredients/pasillas are sometimes called poblanos, which is incorrect)
¾ cup water (approximate)

If using fresh chiles, roast in the oven first. For dried, rehydrate in a heated skilled and 3-4 tablespoons oil. Drain on paper towels.

Place the peppers in a food processor along with ¾ cup water. Puree and add water as needed. Strain to remove the peels.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small, peeled tomato
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
½ slice bread
½ corn tortilla
2 Tablespoons almonds, blanched

2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons raisins
2 whole cloves
3 peppercorns
¼ teaspoon anise seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ounces Mexican chocolate
1 Tablespoon sugar

In a clean food processor, add the onion, garlic and tomato. Set aside.
Heat1 tablespoon cooking oil in a skillet. Add the bread, tortilla, and almonds. Brown carefully. Add this mixture to the onion, garlic, and tomato puree, along with the sesame seeds, raisins, cloves, peppercorns, anise seeds and cinnamon. Continue blending and add turkey/chicken stock as needed (1-2 tablespoons).

In a separate large pot, heat 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Add the puree and simmer over low-medium heat about 10-12 minutes. Pour in the chile blend and slowly pour in up to 4 cups of the turkey or chicken stock. Add the chocolate and sugar. Continue stirring to blend. Cover and allow to simmer for 1 hour, 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue simmering on low heat for another 30 minutes.

Add the turkey or chicken parts and cook an additional 30 minutes. Remove poultry pieces to individual plates and cover with desired amounts of mole sauce.

Note: you can substitute Mexican chocolate with:
-2 ounces semisweet chocolate
-4 teaspoons sugar
-1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
-3 drops vanilla extract

Now you have a truly authentic Mole Poblano. It is also on Cinco de Mayo that you'll hear Viva Mexico! (Long Live Mexico) and we can enjoy great food (Viva Ethnic Cuisine!) every day.

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