How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mole L.O.V.E.

During a recent visit to Frederick, Maryland, we found ourselves slurping vinegar straight from little sample cups -- a lot of them! What inspired such strange behavior? The delicious balsamics and infusions of L.O.V.E. -- The Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium, that is.

We learned of the shop from our UMBC alumni magazine -- the shop was founded by the delightful Maggie Lebherz, a recent graduate of the Spanish program from which Pam graduated a few years back. Our visit was even more enjoyable and interesting than we expected. We learned that -- as with coffees and teas -- oils and vinegars can be special either because of special origins and preparation or because they are infused with other flavors.

Samples in the Emporium are free but fine oils and vinegars are expensive, so we had to choose carefully. Fortunately, Maggie mentioned a tantalizing recipe that employs the most decadent vinegar in the shop: 12-year-old dark chocolate basalmic. The recipe in question is Lebherz' own version of chicken with mole (MOH-lay) sauce.

As I mentioned in my Champandongo Magic post last November, I have been a sucker for mole poblano, after first having it in the summer of 1989 on the flanks of Popocatepetl, near its birthplace. "Poblano" refers to the Valley of Puebla, arguably the hearth of mole and of maize. I use "arguably" because the neighboring state of Oaxaca has competing claims on both, and according to a food-travel article in today's Boston Globe, it is home to at least seven kinds of mole!

A few restaurants in our area serve mole, but always as an enchilada sauce or over boneless chicken breast, rather than the bone-in turkey or chicken that Moctezuma intended. For me, that original mole was served over a turkey I had seen wandering around the kitchen only hours before, prepared by ladies who spoke only Nahuatl!

In gathering ingredients for the Lebherz version of mole, we were fortunate enough to have cooking chocolate from Castillo Cacao in Matagalpa, and we were even more fortunate that Pam remembered this fact.

Moles vary, and mine varied even a bit more, with thees slight modifications to the recipe:
  1. Because almonds are mentioned in the directions but not listed in the ingredient list, I guestimated that 1/3 cup of slivered almonds would work. 
  2. The biggest gumption trap that led me to delay making my first mole sauce by two decades was the need to roast peppers. This should have made the listing of one ordinary green pepper welcome news, but instead I was determined to employ this new skill. I was therefore pleased to see passilla chiles in a local grocery, even though I had to go to a separate store for corn tortillas. I roasted them according to the method I mentioned in my Busy Kitchen post last month, along with a half of a jalapeƱo we had on hand.
  3. The recipe calls for olive oil, for which I substituted Chipotle Olive Oil, also from L.O.V.E.
  4. Finally, the recipe calls for light rum, which we do not usually keep around. I almost substituted aged, dark rum from Nicaragua for a bit more complexity, when I had an even more brilliant (in my mind) idea: Kahlua.
I did not take any photos of the final product -- I expected it to taste much better than it looked, and I was correct -- but I did make a little still life of some of the more colorful ingredients (including the oil and vinegar and a beautiful onion from Colchester) during preparation.

I increased everything in the recipe slightly by about half, both so we could be sure to have enough for guests and so that we could have leftovers. I think I added more broth than necessary; in any case the result was more like a stew than a sauce -- a happier spot along the mole continuum for Pam, but thinner than I would have preferred.

The result was not as photogenic as the tableau above, but it was certainly delicious, served with rice, warmed corn tortillas, and of course beer. It was even better on subsequent days. We finished the chicken but have some sauce left over (yes, leftovers of leftovers), which I hope to fashion into some sort of champandongo.

If I ever find a source to a proper assortment of fresh chiles, I will try the Puebla-style recipe on Epicurious, perhaps modifying it to include the Lebherz secret ingredient. The sad assortment of peppers in our local markets make this highly unlikely, unless I treat the ingredients list as a shopping list for next winter's seed catalogs.

Which I might just do.

No comments:

Post a Comment