Oaxaca is famed for her mole. That’s pronounced MOH-lay. Accent on the first syllable. There are seven moles that make Oaxaca famous. The most difficult and complex is the spicy, chocolate-based mole negro. The others include estofado (olives), amarillo (yellow), verde (green), coloradito (red), mancha mantelos, and chichilo.
Last week, I had both the good fortune and good sense to finally take a cooking class with Pilar Cabrera Arroyo. Pilar is the stellar chef who owns and operates La Olla Restaurant at Av. Reforma #402 in the Centro Historico. The cooking class was held at Casa de los Milagros (corner Crespo and Matamoros). This is a new location. The cooking school onced located at Casa de los Sabores has moved here to the family-owned bed and breakfast. (A spectacular spot!)
Pilar describes mole as salsa with masa that is added as a thickener. Thus, she says, any sauce can become a mole! Yesterday morning we prepared mole amarillo that uses yellow chiles that are indigenous to Oaxaca.
We found them at the Merced Market where we took a shopping field trip before the class began. Pilar took us around to her favorite stalls, identifying the best places to buy eggs, cheese, fresh cow’s milk (for the arroz con leche), and we even found huitlacoche (corn smut) to use in the quesadilla botanas (appetizers) we would later make.
As we toured around the market, we sampled chocolate atole, a traditional Zapotec beverage made with corn meal (muy fuerte, my local friends say), and I bought an amulet that locals use to keep the spirit world at peace.
We shopped for perfect yellow chiles Oaxaquenos and chiles guajillos. The chiles are roasted until they are 90% black. Then you put them in a plastic bag or covered bowl to sweat so they are easier to peel (I had no idea about this until now). Many of us gringos wore surgical gloves while we seeded and de-veined the chiles so that our skin wouldn’t burn, removing the skin using paper towels. (Careful not to put your fingers in your eyes, says Pilar.) Then we cut them into julienne strips.
Pilar’s gas 4-burner gas cooktop is commercial grade (brand name is San-Son). She has another range in the kitchen that also has an oven.
A cast iron comal is used to grill the whole garlic cloves, onions and tomatoes that we will use for the mole amarillo. We use a professional blender instead of the traditional stone metate to combine the peppers, tomatoes and spices.
Classes are are on Tuesdays and Thursdays and you must register in advance through her Web site www.casadelossabores.com or you can call her restaurant La Olla to make a reservation and pay when you get there. Cost is $70 USD and well worth it. We feasted on a five-course meal, including dessert, mescal and beer.
Mole Amarillo (Yellow Mole with Chicken) Recipe by Pilar Cabrera Arroyo, Buen Provecho!
This recipe enthralled me, captivated me, educated me about how easy it can be to prepare a traditional Oaxacan recipe. With Pilar’s permission, I am sharing this recipe with you to enjoy and savor. Buen Provecho! Eat hearty and enjoy!
Pilar Cabrera's Mole Amarillo
Oaxacan Yellow Mole by Pilar Cabrera Arroyo (serves 6)
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 medium onion, chopped coarse
5 garlic cloves, peeled
6 Cups water
1 – 1/2 t. salt
1 medium chayote squash, peeled, cut in slices
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 C. green beans (fresh), tops removed
7 guajillo chiles
2 amarillo chiles
1 chilcoxtle chile
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/4 medium onion
1 black pepper
1 pinch cumin
1 t. corn oil or lard
3 yerba santa leaves or 1 bunch cilantro
1 C. masa
1. Chicken and Vegetables:
Put the chicken pieces into a pot with the onion and garlic. Fill the pot with water and add salt to taste. Cook for 35 min. on medium heat until chicken absorbs all the liquids.
Boil the chayote, green beans and potatoes in water until they are cooked but still firm, “al dente” (about 7 minutes). Set aside.
Peppers on the burner--90% charred!
Roast chiles by putting them on the grill of the gas burner. Sear them, turning regularly until they are 90% charred. Put them in a plastic bag or in bowl covered with plastic wrap to sweat, then peel. Remove seeds. Put them into a bowl of water to cover. Use heavy pan to press the chiles. The liquid will be used in the sauce.
Use a heavy pan to press the chiles
Roast the onion, garlic and tomatoes on a comal or griddle (high heat) until evenly toasted. Set aside.
Strain the soaking chiles and put them in a blender with the garlic, onion, tomato, pepper, clove and cumin. Mix in blender until smooth and creamy.
Heat the oil in a hot pan. Add the blended mixture. Cook for 5 min. on medium heat. Set aside.
Put the masa (corn meal) in a blender along with 1-1/2 C. chicken broth and blend until smooth. Add this to the sauce and cook for 5 min. stirring constantly over medium heat. Season with fresh yerba santa or cilantro and salt. Cook for 7 min. over low heat until sauce begins to thicken. This should be the consistency of gravy.
Cooking the mole sauce with chicken and vegetables
Finally, add the cooked chicken and vegetables. Veggies should be firm and chunky. Remove from heat when chicken and vegetables are warm. Serve hot. Be sure the veggies are not mushy.
This is a fresh, delicious mole, simple to prepare and not complicated. Black mole, for which Oaxaca is famous, takes hours to prepare.
Serve with rice, black beans and fresh tortillas.
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Posted in Cultural Commentary, Food & Recipes, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Travel & Tourism, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged Chicken, Chili pepper, cooking, food, Garlic, Mexico, Mole, Oaxaca, Pilar Cabrera Arroyo, postaweek2011, recipes