Monday, March 10, 2008

Doña Coyo's Mole Poblano

I’ve alluded at various times to the great variety of chiles grown here in Mexico and how each has its own culinary purpose or niche. I’ve been quite remiss in providing some examples of dishes that incorporate the two major dried chile varieties that are grown in the state of Aguascalientes. I will attempt to remedy that now, with 2 posts on traditional dishes that are made with the dried peppers from this region. Today: a very traditional dish made with the Pasilla pepper...Later this week: a popular dish eaten during Lent made with the Gaujillo pepper.


The Pasilla chile is so named for the superficial qualities shared with the pasa, or raisin. When the Pasilla chile is dried, it wrinkles and darkens, resembling a black raisin. This chile is quite popular for use in sauces, especially in Puebla, where it forms the base of the dish Mole Poblano. Mole is a great example of how a “typical” Mexican dish, actually is an amalgam of ingredients, techniques and traditions that blend the pre-hispanic Mexico with the post-colonial version. There are as many different moles as there are chiles – perhaps even more so, as each mole carries its own distinctive combination of chiles.

This recipe comes from Doña Coyo – mother-in-law of my good friend and collaborator, Mario Perez. Doña Coyo learned this recipe from her husband’s childhood nanny...that means that the recipe is AT LEAST 100 years old.

Doña Coyo’s Mole Poblano
This takes 2 to 3 hrs to make and yields ~ 5 liters of sauce. You will need a powerful blender to make sure that all the ingredients are liquefied for the proper consistency.


  • 15 dried Ancho chiles
  • 15 dried Mulato chiles
  • 12-15 dried Pasilla chiles (*use less for less heat)
  • 250g blanched almonds
  • 2 bolillos – small French style dinner rolls...could substitute half a baguette if needed
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 3 “rounds” of Mexican chocolate (i.e., Ibarra)
  • 250g of manteca de puerco - pork lard
  • 200g of raisins
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • ~2 L (about 8 cups) of chicken stock (we made our own stock with onions, garlic, salt and pepper, but you could use store bought to save time)
  • 4 cups of water

1. Prepare the chiles by removing all the seeds and the stem. Thoroughly rinse the prepped chiles under running water.
Doña Coyo opens and prepares the dried chiles.

2. Lightly (!) brown the chiles, almonds, bread rolls (in pieces), tortillas and raisins in lard, working in batches. Set all the browned ingredients aside and allow to cool.
A really quick dip in some hot oil for the chiles

All the ingredients ready for the blender

3. Using the blender and working in batches, blend together the toasted chiles, browned bread, fried tortillas, almonds, raisins, chocolate and chicken stock. You may need to keep adding chicken stock to reach the right consistency. When the stock runs out, use the water that was set aside. . Blend until pieces of chile are no longer distinguishable and the consistency is that of a medium-thick milkshake.
Keep adding stock until all the ingredients all thoroughly blended

4. Pour into a large stockpot with a small amount of lard (keep on low heat). Taste the sauce and add sugar as desired. Dried chiles can sometimes impart a bitter aftertaste and the sugar mellows this out.
5. Simmer the mole for 30-45 minutes, carefully stirring to avoid burning the sauce at the bottom. The mole will thicken and darken in color. It's ready when the oil starts to rise to the surface of the sauce. Take the mole off of the heat and let cool. Once cooled, you can portion the sauce into containers and freeze them for later use (should keep if stored frozen for 2+ years).

On the stovetop to simmer

This mole is often served over roast chicken or pork, accompanied by a side of rice. Srpinkle lightly toasted sesame seeds over top and/or a few toasted raisins. For those in love with the flavors, true Poblanos take his/her mole any way they can get it – try it on top of a fried egg for breakfast or over beans.