Red mole, the second time around

Over the weekend, I was looking over our pantry items and realizing what a glut we have of so many things: dried pasta, dried beans, frozen vegetables, dried chilies. Oh, and when I say “pantry,” I mean that in the sense of a small New York City apartment, which means that I store my “pantry” items literally everywhere: in the actual cupboards, under my sink, on top of the dryer, in my oven (yes, I’m Asian, and in Asian households, it’s normal to use your oven as storage. This is also the reason I never EVER turn on the oven without opening it up to empty out all the contents, which include several baking sheets, a roasting pan, a lasagna pan, a brownie pan, two cake pans, and different containers of seeds, nuts, spices, and dried chilies). We have so many dried chilies, and the most obvious thing I could think to make with a good handful of them would be mole. So I made a mole, using about 22 different ingredients, and waited for it to be ready. I thought to myself, is it actually going to be worth all this effort again? What if it ends up not tasting as good as it did the first time?

I tasted it after the mole finished simmering, and it seemed… Okay, but not great. Something seemed like it was missing. I added some additional salt, sugar, and pepper, and decided to let it cool and taste it a couple days later. I reheated it today with some chicken and served it with multigrain tortillas, queso fresco, cilantro, avocado, and pickled jalapeƱo, and it tasted so much better than it did over the weekend. I think it just needed more time to let all the flavors meld. But when I put all the ingredients together and assembled the final dish, I remembered exactly why mole is worth the extra time and effort: it’s like love in the form of a sauce, love from all the toasting, roasting, soaking, straining, blending, charring, simmering. It’s definitely a keeper recipe for when you have some extra time and want to prepare a complex and satisfying dish.

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