Mole (pronounced "mole-eh") is a bit of a generic term for describing a wide variety of Mexican sauces, all of which involve some sort of Mexican hot peppers (of which there are myriad species, and to which I shall henceforth generically refer to by their Mexican name, "chile") and some sort of nuts. The most famous variety is probably mole poblano which includes Mexican chocolate (originally probably only cocoa beans), an unsweetened, unmilked chocolate that bears little resemblance with one of the products that made Switzerland famous besides clocks, cows, and mountains. Practically all moles that do not include chocolate are also known as pipián, and they are a regional dish, such as the popular variety from the culturally rich Mexican state of Oaxaca that has the largest number of different Mexican indigenous cultures.

In general, mole is a sauce, often served with some kind of meat so sometimes "mole" refers both the sauce and the meat that it is seasoning, almost always chicken. The sauce is a very complicated one if done from scratch. It's an all-day endeavour because the nuts traditionally have to be peeled by hand, and grinding and cleaning the chiles is laborious too. Mexicans are especially proud of mole sauce which they consider to be a craft unto itself and would proposition that the United Nations sanction mole as part of humanity's heritage if they could. As a point of comparison with sauces more famous outside of their country of origin, the flavours, colours, and different kinds of mole as well as their uses in cuisine parallel rather closely those of Indian curry. I'm convinced that the equal latitude has something to do with this similarity.

The curious thing is that mole de olla has nothing to do with mole, so forgive the above digression.

Well, that's not entirely true. It is, of course, another Mexican dish so at the very least it will have some ingredients in common. It is not a sauce, however; it is a stew. Its name, translated literally, might either mean "pot mole", "mole of the pot" or "stew mole". Why call it mole at all I cannot fathom. It probably has something to do with the great variety of ingredients that go into it, a diversity akin to the sauce version of mole. The word itself, "mole" might either come from the Spanish verb "moler", to grind, though not much gets ground with mole de olla, so perhaps an alternate and more plausible theory would be that it comes from the Náhuatl "moli", which simply means means "mixture".

Whatever it's called, the stew is delicious. It may be a little difficult to find a few of the ingredients outside of Mexico, but modern exports, imports, and globalisation might remedy this problem. The version I give here is the one that Mariana prepares, the maid/cook/cleaner in my dad's home. She has never measured the ingredients herself, the recipe being a bit of an oral tradition passed on from her own mother. Mariana has of course modified the recipe according to her own fantastic culinary expertise and also to suit the peculiarities of my family who dislikes, for example, pork. All the recipes I found online for mole de olla called for pork, and although the recipe I will present calls for chicken instead, the kind of meat is easily replaceable and may be done so according to the tastes of the cook and the guests present.

So here it is. A brief chat with Mariana produced the following recipe, without measurement. I give rough guidelines for the desired amounts and what everything should look like, but please use your culinary common sense; bear in mind that this is supposed to be a stew. If disaster nevertheless occurs, contact me and I'll see about getting a more precise recipe.

Ingredients for about four people

  • chopped carrots (about half a cup)
  • chopped squash of the zucchini kind (about half a cup)
  • kernel corn, not sweet, canned is fine (about half a cup)
  • fresh green beans, chopped (about half a cup)
  • One ample chicken breast or two
  • One cube of chicken stock, optional
  • chipotle chiles in adobo, that is, not dry. I know the canned variety can be found as far north as Montréal in Canada, and that's perfectly fine. The amount of chiles will largely influence the uhm, intensity of the resulting stew. For my Mexican family, perhaps about half a can is good enough, more sensitive palates might prefer a little less.
  • one or two diced tomatoes (enough for three quarters of a cup when liquified)
  • about half a clove of garlic
  • about half a large onion, chopped
  • half of a cup of Mexican red rice per person served. See other recipes for preparing red rice.
  • chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) to taste
  • green limes cut in half to be squeezed into stew when served

  1. Boil the chicken until it's very well cooked. When done, remove from the broth and shred it (see this regarding cooking the chicken). Save the broth.
  2. While the chicken is boiling, in the blender put the chipotle chiles, the tomato, all the garlic, and about half the onions (which would mean about a quarter cup of onions in this case). It shouldn't be completely liquified and some small chunks are desirable. After blended, let the sauce simmer at low heat for about ten minutes .
  3. Pour the broth into the chipotle sauce. Still simmer at low heat, and let the flavour soak for a couple of minutes. Taste the stew. If it's still not chickeny enough, add the cube of chicken stock, and perhaps a dash or two of salt.
  4. Start adding the rest of the vegetables except for the rest of the onion. Begin with the green beans which take the longest to cook. When they are soft, add the carrots, the corn, and the squash.
  5. Add the chicken and simmer for maybe a minute or two. Shape the red rice into compact domes using a small cup, place each dome in a bowl per person, and pour the stew around this dome. Serve together with the cilantro, the rest of the onions, and the limes with which the guests can further season the stew to their taste.

Enjoy!

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