Remember those times when you were a kid and you thought you knew better than your grandmother so you did something your own way and then it turned out you were wrong and she was right and you felt like a huge idiot and a real jerk?
Basically, that’s what happened to me when I tried to make a mole last Tuesday night.
Mole is a family of traditional Mexican sauces famous for their breadth of ingredients, length of preparation and complexity of flavor. They are the kind of thing you could spend days putting together. And I decided to try for one on a week night. And not just any normal mole. In the typical “emily” fashion, I was determined to make this mole lard-less, carb-less and very low in fat.
Even though I pursued a relatively simple varient of the sauce, Mole Colorado–one of Oaxaca’s seven traditional moles–it still proved to be an endeavor I will never take on after a full day of work again. That being said, I will be making it again after a restful night’s sleep and a strong coffee. Because MAN was this good. Like, really good. Like, maybe one best things I’ve ever made good. Warming, satisfying, rich and complex, you really can’t beat this sauce.
Make a day of it. You won’t regret it.
Thyme-Roasted Kabocha and Tofu with Mole Colorado and Poached Oyster Mushrooms
vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
- 3-4 dried ancho chilis
- 1 peppercorn
- 1 clove
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 tbs chopped onion
- 1/2 tomato, in chunks
- 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano (or marjoram)
- dash dried thyme
- 6 raisins
- 1 tbs sliced almonds
- 1/4 large banana, sliced
- 1/2 tbs sesame seeds
- 2 tbs chopped Guajillo-spiced Mexican dark chocolate (OR 1-2 dried guajillo chilis for use in combo with anchos, 2 tbs bitter chocolate, and 1/2 tsp darn brown sugar)
- Nut or sunflower oil
Not Mole Components
- Mid-size kabocha squash
- 1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu
- 4 nice looking chunks of oyster mushroom
FIRST PREP CHILIS
- Boil a pot of water.
- Halve dried ancho chilis (and guajillo chilis if you have them), remove seeds and stem.
- Toast chili in a dry skillet moving constantly until lightly browned.
- Blanch toasted chili in the boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Remove from water and let cool slightly.
- Place in food processor or blender with about 1/8 to 1/4 cup water and blend, adding water as necessary to make a smooth, but still thick, paste.
- Set aside.
THEN PREP OTHER INGREDIENTS
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Halve squash, remove seeds (reserve for roasting, if you have it in you) and cut into wedges (you can and should leave the skin on and eat it – it’s good!).
- Place squash wedges on non-stick sprayed baking sheets and dust with ground allspice, dried thyme and ground pepper.
- Cut tofu into 4 rectangular strips about 3/4 inch thick.
- Combine peppercorn, clove, allspice, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Combine garlic and onion in another small bowl.
- Combine tomato, Mexican oregano and thyme in a third small bowl.
- In ANOTHER small bowl, combine raisins, almonds, and sesame seeds.
- Put the squash in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes while you work.
- Dry toast the peppercorn bowl ingredients in your cleaned skillet until fragrant, about 3 minutes or so, moving constantly. Place back in small bowl.
- Add garlic and onion, and dry toast until they begin to brown, blacken or char. Remove, and cool slightly.
- Combine peppercorn bowl ingredients, garlic and onion in food processor and blend, using as much stock as necessary to make into a paste. Set paste aside.
- In same skillet, cook tomato and spices until the tomato begins to lose its juices and dry out, about 5-10 minutes.
- Place tomato in food processor and blend that. Set that aside too.
- Clean your skillet and heat 1/8 tsp of nut or sunflower oil.
- Add banana and let brown.
- Add almonds bowl ingredients and continue to cook all until brown and toasted (adding non-stick spray if things get sticky).
- Combine all that jazz in the food processor with about 3/4 cup stock and combine that too. Yet again, set aside.
- Before you start on finally making the actual sauce, throw the tofu slices onto the baking sheets with the squash to roast as well.
- In the deepest, heaviest dutch oven or soup pot you have heat 1/8 tsp oil.
- Slowly add the chili paste, stirring constantly to prevent splatter. Cook over med-high heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add tomato mixture, and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Add onion & spice mixture, and simmer for about 5-10 more minutes.
- Add banana nut mixture, and simmer for ANOTHER 5-10 minutes.
- Add stock to reach a slightly loose consistency, about 3/4 to 1 cup, and the chopped chocolate, stir and let simmer, cooking down, for about 20-30 more minutes. Stir regularly!
- While the sauce simmers, keep an eye on your squash, which will probably take about 30 minutes to roast. The tofu will take less time, and is done when toasty and brown. If anything is done early, just remove it and reheat at 400 degrees before serving.
- Put enough stock in a small soup pot to cover the bottom by 1/2 inch. Add a bay leaf and some celery seeds and boil. Add the oyster mushrooms and let simmer with the lid slightly open for 3-4 minutes or so.
- Put the tofu down on your plate and encircle or top with kabocha wedges. Generously ladle your sauce over the squash and top with a poached oyster mushroom bunch. And potentially more sauce. It’s that good.
- If you were REALLY industrious, like I attempted to be, you may have also saved some of the kabocha seeds and roasted them as well. If so, top with those (or some pumpkin seeds you may have lying around) for a nice touch.
- HOPHEADS ONLY: consider serving with this deliciously juicy beer, a relative newcomer to the Philadelphia scene: The Gauntlet, an Imperial IPA from San Diego’s Iron Fist.