Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mole Coloradito!

I love moles. They transcend dishes, takes you back to traditional times and places. But preparing and cooking mole, a different story.

Yes, it is a lot of work, sweating in the kitchen, back and forth, lots of pots and bowls, up and down. I'm still honing the craft, but damn, is it worth it because moles really add a flavor punch and they are quite versatile in dishes. The start to finish is a real cooking challenge, very involved using several styles of cooking. It will condition you and fine tune your cooking skills.

Here is a little history. Mole is a Nahuatl Indian word “molli” which means sauce or mixture. They vary from region to region in Mexico. The Oaxacans and Pueblans are well known for moles; brown to red to yellow to black. Moles consist of these basic ingredient groups: chiles, nuts, seeds, spices, and vegetables. It also contains Mexican chocolate. Eventhough it is spiced with cinnamon, it is not sweet and not meant to be used for dessert-type foods.

Mole coloradito is a red mole and most common here in the States. It is flavored with guajillo and ancho peppers and tomatoes.

Before you start cooking, it is best to get your prep together. The sauce is very complex and contains a lot of ingredients.

  • 9 dried guajillo chiles
  • 4 ancho chiles
  • 3 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • half a medium white onion
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 1/3 cup raw pecans
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds - pepitas
  • 1/2 ripe yellow plantain
  • 4, 1/2" slices of Bolillo bread
  • 3/4 oz. Mexican drinking chocolate, I used Abuelita
  • kosher salt
  • reserved pork liquid
The prepartion of the pork is much simpler. Combine in a large pot covering with cold water by one inch:
  • 5-6 lb pork shoulder, cut in 2-3" chunks
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt

 Slowly simmer the pork for two hours.

While the pork simmers, it is time to prepare the sauce. Here is where the recipes becomes a freak out in the kitchen. My hands were too tied to take pictures of the steps while cooking so I am sorry for not providing them. The process involves dehydrating dried peppers, roasting onions and garlic, toasting seeds, blitzing ingredients to make a sauce, toasting nuts, slowly simmering the puree, pots-pots-pots, straining, frying plaintains and bread slices, more blitzing, cleaning the blender........

To highlight the craziness: My cast iron skillet I used for toasting the sesame seeds was a little too hot so when I added them to the skillet, they started popping everywhere all over the oven and kitchen, I immediately took the skillet out my side door to the backyard to cool it down. After it cooled I brought it back in. I have three steps just inside my door leading to the kitchen and I tripped on step causing me to fumble the pan and the seeds to liter the kitchen floor. I cursed and cursed very loudly. Anyway, a few spills and mishaps didn't effect the dish.

After combining the pureed peppers with the nut-tomato mixure, the mole was almost complete. At the end, the chocolate and more reserved pork broth was added to round out the mole. The color was coming together very nicely.

I shredded the pork and added it to the mole and cooked it for added thickness. The final product was a satisfying mole hopefully coming close to a traditional one.

Served on warm tortillas with cilantro and fresh cut onions, the pork mole coloradito was excellent. This mole is much better the second day as everything can chill and mold together but even after cooking, it amazes.

It is a ton of work, perhaps reserved for a special occasion or to just practice your skills. Mole coloradito is becoming a challenger to my favorite 'green' mole; Pipian Verde/Salsa Verde. It is compacted with a ton of ingredients but does not request a fine palatte to enjoy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scrapple for Breakfast

Scrapple is traditional food from the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish. It is basically a big pile of pork mush with cornmeal and spices. Whatever was left of the pig was used for scrapple: hearts, livers, kidneys, head, or anything still attached to bones.

The meat is slow-boiled in broth and then left to cool to form a semi-solid congealed loaf. It is then sliced and pan-fried before serving.

Scrapple is commonly found out east, the Mid-Atlantic states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, New England. Each region has its own variation on scrapple. It is quite similar to white pudding which are popular in England, Ireland, and Scotland.

I did not have pig heart, liver, or kidney laying around the house but I did have a bag of leftover bones and shanks.

Scraps of rack of rib roast, ham bone, and a large slab of pork shoulder steak. It would have been nice to add a smoked pork/ham hock but I forgot to grab one at the market. Oh well, plenty of scraps here to use.

Cut the shoulder into 2 inch blocks and add the shoulder and other scraps to a large stock pot. I added a teaspoon of sage and about a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper for added kick. Simmer for two hours or until the meat falls apart.

Strain the broth and reserve 5 cups of stock. You now have a rich pork stock!

Separate meat from the bones and finely chop into little pork bits. Set aside.

Bring reserved stock to a simmer and then add the chopped bits and add 2 cups yellow cornmeal, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 2 teaspoons black pepper. Cook for about 15-20 minutes and stir quite frequently to avoid burning. The mixture will turn thick and smooth.

Pour the mixture into bread loaf pans and refridgerate until chilled. It is best to leave it in overnight.

In the morning, unmold the scrapple and slice it up however you want to.  Scrapple is a lovely combination of crunchy cornmeal and meat.

Fry up the slices of scrapple in a smoking hot cast-iron skillet. Fry it to desired crispiness.

Garnished with a fried egg. The scrapple had a nice crispy crust while the inside was sort of creamy in texture. It was seasoned well with the cayenne pepper making its presense known, quite a small kick to it. It was a suprisingly light breakfast.

The variations on scrapple use different garnishs such as applesauce, maple syrup, or eggs. I think any decent condiment would work and this meal is not only for breakfast too. Slap it between some bread for lunch.

 I took the less riskier way cooking with ham and pork bones. This seems like a "city" version over the country version with head, hearts, and livers. I would make it again using more traditional pig parts but you can use any pork pickins' you want for scrapple.