Mole (meaning sauce) is often referred to as the national dish of Mexico. It is stated to have originated in the Central Valley region of southern Mexico, Oaxaca. Moles come in various flavors and ingredients, with chili peppers as the common factor. Other frequently used ingredients include nuts, seeds, cilantro, plantains, garlic onions, cinnamon, and often unsweetened chocolate.
Standard seasoning for mole includes the anise-tasting herb hoja santa, meaning sacred leaf. It is an aromatic herb with a heart shaped leaf. If not available, lightly toast finely ground avocado leaves, epazote leaves, or the herb can be omitted. Mole may be served on tortillas or in a bowl with rice. Either lamb or goat stew meat can be used in this recipe.
Chef’s note: We’ve made the mole the traditional way with the molcajete (mortar and pestle) here, but it’s a lot of work. Feel free to use a high-speed blender or a food processor to make the mole.
This recipe is by chef Ben Spangler. Hailing from Minnesota, Ben draws from his Midwestern roots to create dishes that are unpretentious and delicious. Ben has competed on national television for the Food Network and appeared on local Minneapolis food networks. He is currently executive chef at Mercy in Minneapolis.
1 oz Cilantro
1 oz Fresno chilies (fresh)
1 oz Hoja Santa leaf (optional)
½ teaspoon Allspice
½ teaspoon Star anise
½ teaspoon Nutmeg
½ teaspoon Clove
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
2 ea Heirloom tomato, small
2 oz Plantain in skin
7 ea Cloves garlic
½ Onion, diced small
1 ea Prune
8 ea Golden raisins
1 Tablespoon Sesame seeds
2 Tablespoon Cashews, chopped
2 oz Oregano
2 oz Thyme
1 ea Dried chipotle chili, stem and seeds removed
5 ea Dried puya chilis, stem and seeds removed
3 ea Dried ancho chilies, stem and seeds removed
1 teaspoon Grapeseed oil
½ oz Dark unsweetened chocolate, grated or coarsely chopped
- In a cast iron skillet toast the chilies pressing them against the hot surface with a spatula until aromatic and lightened in color, about 10 seconds per side. Add to a bowl with 1 oz of water to help soften them
- Before skinning the garlic begin toasting until softened and browned.
- While waiting for garlic begin toasting the oregano and thyme in a dry pan to prevent cooking. Flip when browned. Reserve.
- Toast spices and Hoja Santa leaves then add to chilies.
- Toast spices, plantain, cashews, prunes, raisins and tomatoes. Allow tomatoes to slightly blackened. Reserve.
- Toast sesame seeds until deep brown. Reserve
- Mash spices in mortar. Once ground add chilies and Hoja Santa leaves, then mash to a paste.
- Add 3 Tablespoons diced onions, toasted herbs, cashews, and plantain. Mash until combined.
- Add toasted tomatoes, garlic, raisins, and prunes.
- Once combined into a paste begin to cook on stove top for 20 minutes. Add water if necessary to prevent drying out.
- While still hot, stir in the chocolate until melted and reserve
2 cups Maseca® flour (ready to mix par-cooked corn meal.)
1 cup Warm water
½ teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Melted lard
Combine 2 cups of Maseca®, salt, lard, & water. Mix thoroughly for about 2 minutes to form soft dough. If dough feels dry, add more water (one tablespoon at a time). Form into a ball, cover with plastic or a damp towel. Set aside and allow to hydrate for 30 minutes.
Roll into 1.5 oz balls and place between 2 pieces of parchment and press in a tortilla press until completely flat. If you do not have a press, a rolling pin will work. Roll to less than 1/8 inch.
Heat skillet until a few drops of water sizzles rapidly when dropped on the surface. Do not oil the skillet. Cook on each side for 30 seconds or until the surface of the tortilla looks dry, is firm, and not doughy. Be careful not to overcook. Make a tinfoil pack and place tortillas inside to finish cooking itself via steam until served.
Makes about 1 dozen 6 inch tortillas. Extra can be stored in the tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Reheat in a microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel on high heat for approximately 15 seconds.
Finish and Serve
- Season lamb meat with salt and pepper and sear with hot cast iron using grape seed oil and medium heat. Sear on both sides and reserve.
- Spread mole on tacos with a few chunks of lamb. Garnish with Fresno chilies and cilantro.
Full Video Recipe
Video by Chef Ben Spangler