For some reason, I have been yearning to make a really good mole lately. It has been at least 10 years since I've tried (and that was as a much less experienced cook) and at least eight years since I've really tasted one. It was actually when I was living and working in Santa Fe that a younger waitress had brought in a small amount that her Mexican Grandmother had made. That flavor has always stuck out in my mind. It sticks to the taste memory in your brain like brick mortar.
Anyway, I managed to come up with a fairly decent recipe on my own. The great part of it now, is that after spending the greater part of an afternoon working on it, I now have a good amount to use in the restaurant on whatever I'd like.
The version above pairs it with barramundi seared and slow cooked in Mexican vanilla beurre monte with a little bit of tomato cinnamon powder on the side. It's not really mole-cular gastronomy, but good old fashioned slow cooking with love. The beurre monte method for cooking and holding food is an amazing technique that we've been exploring, and one that Thomas Keller goes into great detail with in the French Laundry cookbook. Since food can be cooked directly in the beurre monte and it is a fat, any flavor can easily be relayed directly into the food. This one has a hint of Mexican vanilla bean.
I would definitely like to invite Sophia, the Mexican Mama, to offer some traditional insight or suggestions with moles here. Although my flavors are pretty well balanced and the texture is great, her experience with real Mexican cuisine is well-appreciated. True... it's a good recipe, but I want my mole to say "Ole!"
The actual recipe will be posted later, but here are some of the details that went into the process...
I boiled the kola nuts for over an hour to soften them up, and used the resulting 'kola tea' liquid in the recipe. Having only dried chiles on hand (aji amarillo, arbol, and guajillo) I also simmered these for awhile and pureed them to a paste with some of the cooking liquid. The initial cooking of onion, garlic, and spices was done in bacon fat. Afterwards, the chopped kola nuts and cocoa nibs were thrown in followed by chopped tomatoes and chiles. The whole mixture simmered for 2 or 3 hours with the kola nut tea and chicken stock before being pureed smoothly in a high speed blender. I salted the sauce with oak-smoked sea salt. Before serving with the barramundi, a little fish fumet from the bones was added and the mix was mounted with dark chocolate.
The chocolate over-tones of the mole paired well with the vanilla butter, and the tomato cinnamon powder hinted at the earthiness and spice of the mole. Not bad. Much better than it appears under the flourescent lighting of the kitchen in the photo.