Monday, April 09, 2007

Mole Sauce for Steak or Chicken and Lime-Honey Vinaigrette

I know I have written about how much I think Gourmet magazine stands out among the mountain of food magazines that overtake my mailbox every month. Lately, however, more of the recipes I actually cook have come out of Food & Wine magazine. The finger-lickin’ tasty Fried Chicken and Biscuits came from the February issue, and I hit the jackpot again in the March issue with an Mole Sauce that used a simple poblano salsa as its base.

Like many complex and iconic dishes, mole sauce inspires feeling of fascination and reverence in me. Maybe even more so, since it is the kind of dish I may never duplicate authentically unless I move to Puebla and become friendly with the cooks there who carry the secrets of mole-making around in their DNA. Having said that, I think the mole I made with the Food & Wine recipe as a guide definitely does justice to the genuine article.

This sauce is smoky from poblanos, spicy from dried chipotle peppers, nutty from toasted sesame seeds, and rich from chocolate, raisins and cinnamon. Complex doesn’t even begin to describe it; all the sweet flavors are perfectly balanced by the chiles and vegetables. Pureeing makes the consistency creamy and opaque, but it is not at all thick or heavy. All of this means that you could feast on this mole sauce for hours because your taste buds will never get tired of sampling the subtle shades of flavor.

The same article also inspired one of the best salad dressings I’ve made in a while: a simple lime-honey vinaigrette that is refreshingly sweet and zingy. I poured it over a salad of sweet baby lettuces (not the spicy greens we usually prefer, like arugula) from a Dole salad mix, tossed it with chopped tomatoes, a few slivers of red onion and fresh orange sections along with the juices that accumulated when I cut up the orange.

By the way, we served the mole sauce over dry-aged sirloin steaks, seared in a skillet over high heat then transferred to the oven to finish cooking. Any good steak would be wonderful; just let the mole be the star of the show. Two nights later, we roasted whole chicken breasts and topped them with the leftover mole. This was also fantastic. This may be the closest I ever get to authentic mole sauce, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Mole Sauce for Steak or Chicken
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine

The original salsa recipe calls for ancho chiles which are dried poblanos. I could not find them, so I used fresh poblanos with amazing results. The recipe for the Poblano Salsa base yields 5 cups of salsa, but you only need one cup to make the mole. I prepared the whole salsa recipe and used some of the leftovers to make an enchilada sauce by mixing about 1 cup of salsa with a can of plain tomato sauce. I froze the rest in 1 cup portions for future use. You could also use the salsa as a dip or a topping for grilled fish or chicken. Two dried chipotle chiles with most seeds should yield a very hot salsa Adjust the amount of chiles and seeds to suit you, but don’t eliminate them completely; they add a unique sweet-smoky flavor.

Poblano Salsa:
8 poblano chiles, stemmed seeded and roughly chopped
1 to 2 dried chipotle chile peppers, stemmed and some seeds discarded, depending on your desired heat level (see recipe headnote)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 white onion, chopped
1 tbs. light brown sugar
1 tbs. canola oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. (approx.) freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. cider vineger

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand form 10 minutes. Working in batches, roughly puree the salsa in a blender. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside.

Mole Sauce (Makes about 1 ½ cups; 6 servings):
1 tbs. sesame seeds
1 c. poblano salsa
½ c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 oz. chopped sweet chocolate (I used half milk and half semisweet)
2 tbs. dark raisins
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over low heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden. Add the poblano salsa, chicken broth, chocolate, raisins, cinnamon and nutmegs. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the chocolate is melted, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave and serve over grilled or roasted steak or chicken. Keeps in the refrigerator for 4 days.

Lime-Honey Vinaigrette
Serves 4

2 tbs. honey
3 tbs. fresh lime juice
2 tbs. canola oil
2 to 3 drops red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well until emulsified.

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Christine said...

I love both the salsa and the mole recipe. I've always turned away from making the long version of mole because it's just that - long. But you've made it very approachable here, Julie. Thanks!
I know it's been a while since I've visited. I'll be back to catch up soon. Love those buttermilk biscuits!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I've always enjoyed Gourmet and Food & Wine, I usually buy them when we travel. Your mole directions look very accessible! You sure make it sound glorious!

Ulla said...

That vinaigrette looks soooo good! I am making it as soon as possible!

Kirsten said...

Agree re: food and wine lately...

This looks great. :)