Friday, March 7, 2008

Mole Contendere

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2008 at 3:35 PM

click to enlarge mole1.jpg

You might remember a few weeks ago when Bites posed the question of where to find good mole in Nashville. We came up with a few places—Lime, Sol and Rosario's among them—that make the intricate Southern Mexican sauce, which is often served with chicken and tamales. But the consensus was that there's a shortage of the Oaxacan specialty in these parts.

Maybe that's because mole is a complete bitch to make. With dozens of hard-to-find ingredients that need to be roasted, toasted, ground and even set on fire, mole is not for dilettantes.

Intrigued by the online conversation, frequent Bites contributor Claudia Young tried her hand at mole negro this week—using 29 ingredients, including Mexican cinnamon and an avocado leaf. It took her the better part of a day to roast and grind sesame seeds, pecans, bread, chiles and plantains, mixing them in a delicate titration with Mexican chocolate and pork fat. After forcing it all through a fine sieve countless times, God bless her, Claudia packed up the finished product with a chicken and some rice and schlepped it down to the Scene office, where we devoured it in about the time it takes to say, “Yo no quiero Taco Bell.”

The end result was a mysterious marriage of spicy and soothing, sweet and savory, in which fruity tones of raisin and chocolate nestled up against the sultry burn of pepper, with a dusty finish of cinnamon and clove. For us benefactors of Claudia's kitchen labor, the experiment was an unqualified and delicious success. Then again, we didn't spend all day Monday trying to ignite chile seeds.

For Claudia's part, she vows never to repeat the tedious chore, and she is deaccessioning the surplus guajillos, pasilla Mexicanos, chipotles mecos and anchos negros via a contest at her own website. All visitors to will be entered in a random drawing for a mole kit, complete with all the ingredients necessary for mole negro—with the exception of one ingredient that Claudia can't provide: time. You'll have to find that for yourself.

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