Friday, November 4, 2011

Festive turkey mole from Puebla (Mexico)

This is indeed a classic turkey recipe, used for many festive occasions througout Mexico. It is perfect to bring a little bit of spice to a more traditional thanksgiving turkey dinner. The recipe is actually quite laborious featuring one of the most subtle and complicated sauces ever concocted by human - mole . Moles date back to ancient indigenous preparations, where smoked and dried chilies, fruits, spices and unusual ingredients such as chocolate meld together perfectly creating a true balance between spiciness, sweetness and richness. The use of different varieties of dry chilies, in particular, lends different 'levels' of spiciness which, in a well prepared mole, should hit at first the tip of the tongue, then the back of it, and finally the throat without ever scorching the mouth.

Because the sauce is so labor intensive, I suggest following the old traditional ways for cooking the turkey: just boil a couple of turkey tights and drumsticks before shredding the meat and combining it with the sauce (reserve some of the turkey broth to dilute the sauce during cooking as needed). Most of your time should be dedicated to the mole sauce: stirring it while cooking for a long time and tasting it again and again to make sure the correct balance of spiciness and deepness is achieved. Besides the necessary Mexican dried chilies, the exact ingredients you use are not crucial. Make sure you use some nuts (toasted almonds, sesame seeds and peanuts are quite typical), dried fruits (such as raisins), toasted tortillas or bread for body, and un-sweetened chocolate (Mexican cooking chocolate is best). Good additions from more tropical parts of Mexico are ripe plantains (cooking bananas) and a touch of sour orange juice (both available at Central American stores -fresh lime juice can be used instead of sour oranges).

Preparation: Start with the chilies. Most Mexican cooks use at least three different types of dried chilies. The classical 'trinity' is made up of chile 'Ancho', 'Mulato' and 'Pasilla'. You can also add 'Chipotle' (for example the kind that is sold in cans, in adobo sauce, to boost the spice level). First 'fry' the dry chilies on both sides in a hot pan using a little oil, until the flesh turns chocolate brown and the skin blisters. Take care not to burn them. When done, steep them in warm water for at least half an hour. After that you can take the chilies out, core and seed them and they'll be ready to use. Taste the steeping water as well, if not bitter, it can be used to dilute the mole during cooking - otherwise discard it. Next toast the nuts in a dry frying pan as well as the bread and tortilla. Finally briefly toast a couple of cinnamon sticks and perhaps a small amount of coriander seeds.

Now you are ready to go: blend the chilies with a little of their steeping water to a thick paste. Toast some garlic in a skillet with a little oil, add the chile paste and fry for 10 minutes. Add the dry fruit and let it swell. Next, put all spices and dry ingredients in a powerful blender (alternatively, grind the spices separately in a spice grinder to a powder first) and blend to a paste adding some of the turkey broth. Finally, add the (warm, not hot) chile paste to the blender mix, and blend everything until smooth, return to the pan, add some extra broth to loosen the mix, and cook on a low heath stirring constantly until the oil separates and the sauce is nice and thick (about an hour or more, add more stock if needed during the cooking). Season with salt and pepper, and adjust the level of spiciness adding some more 'adobo sauce' from the Chipotle. The final product should be a dark brown, thick paste. The flavors should be well balanced and the spiciness should be 'layered'. It should not be sweet, but rather smoky with both fruity and nutty notes. When this is achieved, just pour the sauce on top of the warm, shredded turkey, garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with warm tortillas -enjoy!

PS. ‘The Great Chile Book’ by Mark Miller is a very good introduction to dry (and fresh) Chile varieties found in Mexico and now widely available in the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment