Spend hours in front of a bubbling pot of chiles, spices and Mexican chocolate and you’ll be rewarded with a perfect molé.
Use this Mexican dressing to top chicken or other meats for special holidays and meals — including any special Cinco de Mayo celebration you may have planned.
It is time- and labor-intensive, but molé (pronounced MO-lay) can be created with many different ingredient combinations. The more traditional molés are made with Mexican chocolate, chiles and other spices, but ingredients like apples or pumpkin can be added to give the sauce a distinctive flavor.
“It comes from (the states) of Mexico called Puebla or Oaxaca,” said Angel Retana, who works at his family’s restaurant El Cerraton on Atlanta Highway. “Those people call it molé poblano. The main ingredients for that would be chocolate, so this is a very well known dish. It comes from the Colonial ages, so its very old and a lot of grandmoms have their own secret recipe.”
Retana said a basic molé will take three to four hours to prepare at home.
“It depends on how fast you are, but the whole process takes a lot of time,” he said. “Since this is a very complicated dish to make — the right way.”
Each molé recipe is regional and varies by family, said Javier Serna, a bartender at La Parilla in Oakwood whose family is originally from San Luis, Mexico.
“Everybody has their own — there’s a red version, there’s a green version — but everyone makes it different,” he said. “We made the red (version).”
Typical ingredients for molé include chiles, nuts, chocolate, onion, tomato and garlic that are ground down and boiled for several hours, reduced to a thick sauce.
“As far as preparation, it takes a long time because it has a lot of ingredients,” Serna said. “But as far as the taste there’s like chiles in it but not hot chiles, just mostly to give it color and it gives it a good taste.
“The thing that a lot of people don’t know is that you put chocolate in it as well, so when you taste it at first you get maybe a little bitter flavor and at times you can taste a little sweetness.”
Many local restaurants don’t always offer the dish on the menu because of the time and labor needed in preparation. But at Pueblos Mexican Cuisine, homemade molé is made every other day for one of their signature dishes, Chicken Molé Enchiladas.
“I think it’s hard to make if you really don’t know the recipe very well and you’re trying to improvise,” said Laura Estrada, co-owner of Pueblos. “Because just like any sauce, you can make some of this one in advance. We do ours every other day to keep it fresh.”
At the restaurant three chicken enchiladas are smothered with their special homemade molé, then topped with cotija cheese and served with rice and beans.
“What makes it special is that we actually go by a very traditional recipe,” Estrada said. “Ours is red molé ... one of the main ingredients for molé is that you have to use chicken stock. The other is a special Mexican chocolate bar, making the taste bittersweet and spicy at the same time.”
Retana said typically the molé is served as a topping on chicken.
“You boil the whole leg and the thigh and then when it’s all cooked it’s put on top and covered,” he said. “Then put it with rice and beans.”
And the molé flavor can vary; some are spicy and some aren’t.
“It depends on the ingredients and the peppers they use,” Retana said. “A lot of times they use fried chiles, so sometimes it’s just as spicy as you want your recipe to be.”