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...

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Aztec Lasagna

Lovers Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatepetl in front of the mountains that bear their names. These mountains divide the Valley of Mexico (City) from the Valley of Puebla. Read the romantic legend at Inside Mexico. My first encounter with mole was on the flanks of Popo in 1989.
We recently revisited a favorite recipe for friends we had not yet cooked for. We could tell they were a bit trepidatious about champandongo -- a dish that has meat, hot peppers, and cocoa, among other ingredients. But they were brave, so we took the opportunity to prepare one of my favorite weekend (i.e., long prep time) dishes.

Champandongo  is one of the lesser-known menu items in Like Water for Chocolate, in part perhaps because its preparation is not detailed in the movie version, nor is it associated with any magic realism, as are so many of Tita's other creations throughout the story.

As we've reported on this blog, mole (pronounced MOH-lay, not like the rodent) can be prepared in quite a variety of ways. I used the champandongo recipe found and followed by Pam's students in 2011 as a starting point, modifying only the way the sauce itself is prepared. I used ordinary tomato sauce in place of the tomato soup, and of course roasted my own poblano peppers, rather than using canned green chiles. I used poblanos because both this recipe and the peppers originate in Puebla, where Pam and I spent a memorable summer in 1989, and it is where we discovered mole -- a taste I enjoyed right away, and that Pam acquired over time.
Champandongo kit: meat filling, tortillas, mole. 
In place of the cocoa powder called for in the recipe, I used a package (2 disks) of dark chocolate from Taza. I would have used one of the other varieties with chili, but the regular dark was fine. I simply powdered it with a cheese grater. I then used ALL of the mole I prepared. I am not quite sure why the recipe calls for making a lot of mole and using only a small amount. The more, the better!
Don't skimp on the Manchego cheese!
The result was quite good, especially served with a bordeaux, which I had read as a recommendation with another mole recipe, and with Negra Modelo, a brown beer that I first encountered during that Puebla summer. Our friends enjoyed their first mole encounter, though their reaction to its spiciness suggests that I could have skipped the cayenne or the jalapeno that I had slipped into the sauce.

After preparing this and bragging about its Aztec roots -- the first people who prepared this for me, after all, did not even speak Spanish, only Nahuatl -- it occurs to me that flour tortillas are quite a departure. True Aztec lasagna probably needs corn tortillas. Perhaps next time I'll try them, at least in one side of the dish.


Since we were serving this at our seaside Whaling House, our friends brought us a whale cake to share. It was delicious! (And no whales were harmed.)

1 comment:

  1. Great meal! We loved eating it with you. Even the peppers were fun to experience.