Simple and mole are two words that don’t go hand in hand. On the contrary, mole is a classic and complex Mexican sauce that may include chiles, seeds, nuts, spices, fruit, bread/tortillas, herbs, chocolate, etc.
When I lived in Chicago, there were several [small neighborhood] Mexican restaurants where you could find excellent, authentic moles. This restaurant in particular still stands out in my mind. Haven’t been there in a while, but I vividly recall their mole sampler, four different moles with a side of housemade corn tortillas (yum). But now that I’m in D.C. (not for long, more on that shortly), there’s little (authentic) Mexican food to be found; as for mole, well, nonexistent.
Mole is labor intensive. It’s not something that you can whip up at the spur of the moment. Mole requires time and patience. Despite the fact that making mole requires a multitude of ingredients and steps, it’s absolutely worth the effort. When properly made, mole is nothing short of spectacular.
This is a scaled back, simplified red mole. It requires just a handful of ingredients and is far less time consuming compared to some. It’s much more approachable, but still delivers lots of good flavor. Think of it as an introduction to the (delicious) world of mole.
This red mole would be great drizzled over chicken. Or, perhaps, a stuffed poblano with mole drizzled on top. Or, simply with eggs…decisions, decisions. Today, I’ve opted to go vegetarian and use the mole with beans.
The chiles are seeded, flattened, and dry toasted in a skillet (10 seconds or so per side), rehydrated in hot water, and drained.
Used three types of dried chiles in the mole: ancho (dried poblano, mild, fruity and raisiny), guajillo (moderately spicy, earthy, lightly smokey), and (just one, for a little punch of heat) morita/chipotle (smoked and dried red jalapeno; spicy, smokey, fruity). I altered the ancho to guajillo ratio as compared to the original recipe. Opted for a few less ancho and a few more guajillo chiles, as I wanted a touch more heat and smokiness.
The tomatoes and garlic are dry roasted in a skillet.
Thereafter, all the ingredients go into a blender and are pureed, strained, and simmered on the stovetop for an hour or so. Balance the flavors with sugar and salt to taste.
These are Rancho Gordo Ayocote Morado runner beans. They are a beautiful, striking purple color when uncooked.
The mole and beans are delicious on their own, but I always like toppings, so added a few…
Roasted poblano, fried tortilla chips, crumbled cheese, avocado, cilantro, watermelon radish, jalapeno, and tomatoes.
Vegetarian Beans with a Simple Red Mole
Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
makes 7 cups
12 ounces (about 2 cups) dry scarlet or black runner beans
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste, divided
5 medium dried ancho chilies (2 1/2 ounces), stemmed and seeded
6 medium dried guajillo chilies (1 1/4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
1 morita (chipotle) chile, stemmed and seeded
6 ounces (1 medium to small or 2 small plum) tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
3 tablespoons (about 3/4 ounces) coarsely chopped Mexican chocolate
3 to 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock optional for non-vegetarians)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
Soak the beans overnight. Rinse the beans, transfer into a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, simmer another 20 minutes and drain.
Toasting the chiles: Heat a dry heavy skillet over medium heat. Lay a chile flat and press with a metal spatula for a few seconds, until there is a crackle or perhaps a thin wisp of smoke. Turn and toast the other side. Repeat with the remaining chiles. Transfer the toasted chilies to a medium bowl, cover with hot water, and allow the chiles to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet for a minute or so until they start to pop. Scrape into a blender jar.
Dry roast the garlic and tomato in the skillet, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until soft and blackened in spots. Cool slightly, peel off the skins of the tomato and garlic, and transfer to a blender, along with the rehydrated chilies, cinnamon, oregano, pepper, chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Process until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer.
Heat the oil in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high. Once the oil is hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle, add the puree all at once and stir for 3-4 minutes, until it’s thickened a bit. Add 1 1/2 cups of broth, stir, partially cover, and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons, and the sugar.
Stir the drained beans into the mole. Simmer for about 20 minutes, which will allow the beans to absorb the flavors, adding more broth if necessary to give a smooth consistency. Taste for salt and serve.