a fabulous mole – what? no chocolate??

go directly to the recipe

summary: recipe for pecan cashew mole; wonders of dried shrimps; (click on image for larger view and more photos)

pecan cashew mole Quick!! There are two things you have to do right now:

  1. Race to Chinatown and buy some dried shrimps.
  2. Stop on the way home at the South American store (we like “La Perola” on Augusta) to stock up on dried chiles.

Why? You’ve GOT to make this pecan cashew mole! I can’t believe how wonderful it is!

It was the following section in Danielle’s (Habeas Brülée) post that clinched the deal:

When we’re cooking in our tiny Lyceum kitchen, we can’t really hear what’s going on in the big room outside. […] When this mole was served the first time, though, a moment later someone out in the dining room exclaimed with delight so loudly that I could hear it back in the kitchen: “Oh my god, this sauce! There’s so much going on!

-Danielle, Habeas Brülée: Pecan Mole

Danielle calls for pecans in the mole. We didn’t have quite enough pecans on hand so we added some cashews. (Do South Americans ever use cashews in moles?? No idea.) Why not? They couldn’t be bad!

shrimps She also calls for “tiny dried shrimp”. Now, we’ve often seen these little dried shrimp (they’re each about 2 cm across) in Chinatown but we’ve never had the nerve to buy them.

Silly us!!

They are amazing! Once they’ve been reconstituted they have a wonderful chewy texture. The flavour on its own is, admittedly, a little on the salty fishy side. But once it is introduced to the rest of the ingredients, the fishiness disappears entirely and they just taste like shrimps should.

The shrimps so wonderful that we’re having a quasi puttanesca pasta tonight made with tomatoes, olives and dried shrimp rather than anchovies. Why not? It can’t be bad! But that’s another story….

One thing that isn’t in Danielle’s mole is chocolate. We were very surprised. We thought that chocolate was an essential ingredient in mole. We almost put some in but then decided to see how it tasted without the chocolate, thinking that we could always add chocolate the next time.

And the verdict is in: chocolate is entirely unnecessary in this particular mole.

Here’s what T did to make enough mole for about 4 dinners:

Pecan Cashew Mole

based on Habeas Brülée’s recipe for Pecan Mole

  • safflower oil
  • one each of ancho, New Mexico, Amarillo, Guajillo chiles
  • 1 tsp kalonji (nigella seed)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 plantain, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • small handful pecans
  • small handful cashews
  • small handful raw sunflower seeds, shelled
  • small handful pepitas
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp dried shrimp
  • ½ c Thompson raisins
  • water
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • seasalt, to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a stainless steel frying pan. Add the chilis and kalonji. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add onions and plantain.
  2. When the onions are soft, add the garlic, pecans, cashews, pepitas and sunflower seeds.
  3. Cook until the nuts are lightly toasted.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients and continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring from time to time, until the sauce is quite thick.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a bit before putting the sauce into a food processor. Process until it is smooth.
  6. Taste and add salt if necessary.

We served this sauce underneath barbecued chicken (rubbed with Old Bay seasoning), greens with garlic and flat bread.

Notes:

:: We tasted the plantain before cooking it and its flavour was pretty much the same as an underripe banana. It’s highly likely that we could just as easily use greenish banana in place of plantain and next time will get whichever is less expensive.

:: Instead of chicken stock powder, a small amount of rich stock can obviously be used.

flatbread If I’d been paying proper attention to Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups), I’d have made gorditas (read more about gorditas) to go with the chicken and mole. Happily, we had some fat pitas, that we’d barbecued earlier this summer, floating around in the freezer. We tossed them into the barbecue at the last minute to reheat them and they were perfect.

pecan cashew mole One thing about the sauce. It does look a bit, well… brown and sludgy. (This is the reason that the photo shows the cashews and chiles whole.) We could have taken photos of the final plates but well. You know. We were too busy savouring, lip smacking, licking our fingers and swooning to go and get the camera.

And I suspect that we’re always going to use cashews in the mole. Inexplicably, they are less expensive here than pecans. (Really, it makes zero sense. Isn’t it WAY more labour intensive to harvest cashews than pecans??) Not to mention that cashews lend a wonderful flavour to just about anything they’re in.

We’re thinking that when we serve this to guests, we’ll be certain to place the sauce under the grilled meat and garnish it with coriander leaf, or parsley, or fresh oregano leaves. It really does need something to distract the eye. It’s certainly not the prettiest looking sauce when it’s finished but close your eyes if the sight of it offends you and taste it. Once it goes from fork to mouth, all is forgiven. It might be rather Bflat in looks but in flavour? Oh oh oh: A plus all the way!

RATS!! We meant to fry some plantain to serve it on the side. Oh dear. I guess that means we’ll have to have this mole again very soon. Poor us. :-)

 

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  • MrsBrown

    I’ve always wanted to try mole but since I can’t eat chocolate, I’ve just looked at the recipe and sighed. My heart leapt when I read it had no chocolate but then I see it has dried shrimp. sigh again. But wait, maybe I could use dried anchovies, if there is such a thing, instead. Oh, it has raisins in it. MrBrown doesn’t eat sugar, even the amount of sugar in raisins. sigh once more. No mole for me!

    Now I must try Gorditas! I love the direct translation–little fats!

  • ejm

    Why not use a couple of tinned anchovies and omit the raisins entirely, MrsBrown? Does plantain count as a fruit or vegetable? If it counts as fruit, then you’ll have to omit that too. I’d put the anchovies in after the chilis and nigella seeds and cook them, mashing them with the edge of a wooden spoon. Then add the onions and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

    I bet it would still be pretty fabulous even if it is missing the raisins and plantain.

    -Elizabeth

    Ha!! I love the translation of Gorditas! Now I want them even more! (One can never have too much fat.)

  • tph

    I agree with Elizabeth, we loved this. Wonderful flavours. And the pictures we took show how beautiful the mole is while it’s in it’s whole ingredient state. Stunningly beautiful. However, after grinding everything up in the food processor it can look a bit like dogs breakfast (maybe even a lot).

    What I might do next time is grind up the the chilies and chop up the plantain, raisins and onions to a finer dice and serve the mole without grinding it all up. It would look fabulous and probably taste equally good.

  • tph

    To Mrs. Brown – Tinned anchovy would work really well as a substitute. You won’t get the wonderful chewy texture of the small shrimp but you will get a complexity of flavour.

    If not adding raisins then I would add a lot more onion. Try caramelizing them as much as you can and you will achieve the kind of sweetness that Mr.Brown might be okay with.

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