After tasting her peanut and sesame mole at Underbelly restaurant in Houston where I had the pleasure to cook with Chris Sheppard and his team, I knew I wanted to make mole with Daniella Soto-Innes. I didn’t know my wish would come true so soon. After a great tour of Brooklyn brewery and a guided tasting of most of our draft lines we grabbed a growler of Brooklyn Black Ops first running’s (the sweet liquid before hops are added to the wort) and headed to meet up with our buddies at Mast brothers Chocolate for a tour of the facility. I knew I loved their chocolate but I didn’t realize how in line Mast Brothers approach to chocolate making was with our Brooklyn Brewery philosophy towards our beer. Mast uses the best ingredients sourced responsibly from over five cooperatives scattered across Latin America and Africa. Only toasted cocoa beans and sugar ever enter into their chocolate base. Like the Brewery they use real ingredients, no fillers or substitutes, take no short cuts and focus on a strong base to apply their creative fancy.
As we watched the beans being separated from their shell we noticed large bags filled with the remains covered in cocoa powder. It was a sign form the mole gods. Upon Daniela’s request, we left our tour with a five pound bag of the scraps that would normally make their way to a local farm to feed some lucky pigs. With our new prized possession we were eager to shop for our missing ingredients. Luckily Williamsburg is chock full of Mexican bodegas so our search for tomatillos, cilantro, plantains, pepitas, pasote , passillo, ancho, poblano, cascabel , mulato and guajillo chillies was not difficult. After our tour of Grand avenue bodegas we headed for my house, arm weighed down with our bags full of goodies.
Mole is derived from the combination of many ingredients but in essence it is the melding of five elements left to simmer for a long period of time so all the flavors combine harmoniously into one seriously rich sauce: Heat and depth (Chilies), Sour (tomatillos), sweet (cane sugar or dried fruit), Spices (Cinnamon, coriander mustard seed, etc.) and thickeners (assorted nuts and tortillas). These ingredients sit atop a base of sautéed garlic and onions. Traditional moles have upwards of 20 ingredients and there are countless varieties, although the moles of Mexico originate from Puebla, Oaxaca, and Tiaxcala.
Daniela and I decided against the traditional route and set out to make four funky varieties of mole and an adobo base. Our mild Pink mole started with a white mole base of peanuts, sesame seeds, and, pine nuts, orange juice, and coconut milk, but soon became scarlet with the addition of red beets. While that simmered away we started our green mole with spinach, our Brooklyn “Black Ops” mole with Mast Brothers beans (which would be our base for the Plantain mole), and our adobo. As the windows steamed up, pots began to bubble, aromas began to meld and my mouth began to water. We toasted a variety of nuts and our spice mixture, roasted dried figs, and added them to our various pots. Mole has so many layers and nuances, it is kind of like the kitchen sink recipe, or a good pantry cleanser. As our moles simmered away almost brimming over with all their ingredients, we toasted tortillas, lit them on fire and added them in. Mole is not a delicate sauce, it is cooked hard, much to the complaint of my girlfriend who can still not see the bottom of a few of her Le Creuset pots. Once the mole is adequately cooked it is transferred to a blender (or traditionally a mortar) and blended into a paste. This paste is then returned to the pan and cooked down even further until it reaches the perfect consistency. Most moles are intended for use in a specific dish. Pink mole goes great with red snapper, mole verde with roasted pork, but the world is your mole when it comes to pairings and matching with different dishes from braised lamb to roasted vegetables. With all the pairing options in the world, I was happy to relax With a Brooklyn Brown Ale in hand, a cup of mole verde and a plate of blue corn chips to dip into the still cooling sauce.
If you want to sample one of our moles for yourself join me at the Brooklyn Kitchen 4th annual Meatball slap down hosted at the Brooklyn Brewery on April 7th, where my Black Op’s braised lamb meatballs will be smothered in Daniela’s mole verde.