Monday, December 11, 2017
Cooking

In memoriam: a mole to remember

By The Culinary Institute of America

The Day of the Dead is a holiday observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries that celebrates and honors the memory of deceased loved ones. Falling on Nov. 1, just a day after Halloween celebrations, the holiday shares some of the sentiment of Halloween, but it is a very different occasion.

Where Halloween views the dead as spooky haunts, the day known locally as Dia de los Muertos remembers them as beloved citizens of the afterlife. Through the building of altars, lively fiestas and offerings of the departed’s favorite foods, Dia de los Muertos is a true celebration, shared between the living and the dead.

And while there are many ways to celebrate, we are focusing on the dinner table. Luckily, the rich cultures surrounding the day are a wealth of traditional recipes and ingredients. Day of the Dead bread and tamales are a good place to start, but we especially love the ritual involved in creating flavorful and traditional moles, as in Culinary Institute of America chef Sofia Sada’s recipe for Mole Poblano.

Today, Mexico has identified more than 50 different moles, but a mole is really whatever you want your sauce to be. Of course, this traditional Mole Poblano is the most well-known variety, and so it’s a perfect representation of Mexico’s culinary tradition.

If you’re looking at the ingredient list and thinking, "Wow, that’s a lot of ingredients," you’re right. This complex sauce is not something you can throw together quickly on a Wednesday night, but for a special occasion, it is well worth the effort. Luckily, the sauce can be made well ahead of time and frozen, which means any weeknight can be that special occasion.

Not all moles contain chocolate, but this recipe calls for Mexican chocolate, which is a unique ingredient that you can easily find at Latin American markets or from online retailers. Cacao, the large bean from which chocolate is produced, is native to Mexico, and chocolate has a long history in the many ancient cultures of the region. Today, Mexican chocolate is unique in that it contains cinnamon and other spices and helps bring out the flavors of the mole.

You may not use dried chiles every day, but they offer a more intense flavor than their fresh counterparts. Just like the chocolate, they are abundant at markets if you know where to look, and they store well, so keep some on hand for experimenting. Dried chiles should be toasted and then soaked, to help break down the tough skin before cooking.

We could write a book (or 100) on the recipes and ingredients of Mexican cuisine, but in the interest of time, this recipe will have to suffice. And even if you don’t celebrate Dia de los Muertos in the traditional way, this recipe is a labor of love that you can share with your beloved family, whether they are at your table or in your heart.

Comments
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17
My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

For the past 20 years, my family has looked forward to a boat parade party hosted by some of our dearest friends. The hostess provides cocktails, appetizers, dinner, desserts and a trombone choir to perform from a balcony overlooking her pool. My fav...
Published: 12/06/17
Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

When we opened this year’s call for reader submissions to any treasured holiday food tradition, I had no idea what to expect. That was kind of the point. I wanted to see what such a wide gamut would inspire. And you delivered. The stories that reader...
Published: 12/06/17
Five ideas for slow cooker meals, from curries to cake

Five ideas for slow cooker meals, from curries to cake

Listen up. I know you and the slow cooker may have a tortured relationship. You chop, you season, you set the timer, hoping that a sultry, bubbling dish will greet you in 4 to 8 hours. What really happens is often more dry, more bland, more meh than ...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
From the food editor: A weeknight dinner pork chop recipe perfect for this time of year

From the food editor: A weeknight dinner pork chop recipe perfect for this time of year

It was one of those divine cooking evenings. I didn’t have a plan for dinner, but I did miraculously have a number of ingredients on hand that work really well together: pork chops, sweet potatoes, apple cider leftover from a Thanksgiving gathering, ...
Published: 12/05/17
We tried pickle-flavored candy canes (w/video)

We tried pickle-flavored candy canes (w/video)

It is a bright December morning, and I am trying pickle-flavored candy canes. I eye the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, water, citric acid, artificial dill flavor, FD&C Yellow, FD&C Blue 1. All very upstanding. All very appropriate for a classic holi...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Trouble with picky eaters at home? Here’s the solution

Trouble with picky eaters at home? Here’s the solution

The way to stop fighting about picky eating is to stop fighting. And a good way around that is the "participatory meal," where everyone makes their own combination of a noodle bowl or pizza or sandwich. Researchers think one of the reasons kids gravi...
Published: 11/29/17
Bake these skillet cookies for the holidays

Bake these skillet cookies for the holidays

Cookies are pretty perfect as they are, except when the only thing wrong with them is that there are so many.Of course, one of the best things about cookies is that they are individually sized treats that we don’t have to share or refrigerate or eat ...
Published: 11/29/17
Lentil and Macaroni Soup With Swiss Chard is ideal comfort food

Lentil and Macaroni Soup With Swiss Chard is ideal comfort food

By Ellie Kriegero the Washington Post Some dishes are tagged as comfort foods because of the emotional connections we have with them; they conjure memories of good times, feelings of being nurtured or being carefree. But there is a physical aspect to...
Published: 11/29/17