Saturday, April 09, 2005

Enchilada Enfrijolada Enmolada

My latest obsession, thanks to the fine people at Whole Foods Market, who stock Mayordomo Brand Black Mole is enmoladas.

These were inspired by a visit to Oaxaca, in southern Mexico last summer. I took a cooking class with the wonderful teacher Susanna Trilling. We met her at the Wednesday Farmer's Market in Etla, where we got to tour the market and sample local foods. Then we had a snack at a cafe in the market.

The cafe's specialty is enchiladas, enfrijoladas, and enmoladas. A bit of linguistic sleuthing will tell you that the words are related and describe foods that are prepared the same way, but with different ingredients. Enchilada is something that is in a chile sauce, enfrijolada is in a bean (frijol) sauce, and enmolada is in a mole sauce. In this case it was tortillas, but there is also an "enchilado" cheese that has been rubbed with a spice paste and is red on the outside.

These enchiladas are not the meat and cheese bombs we get in the U.S. They were simply corn tortillas (I never saw a flour tortilla in Oaxaca) lightly fried, dipped in sauce, folded in neat quarters and presented with a tiny bit of sliced onion and a few cheese crumbles.

I found the Mayordomo Mole Negro the other day. I have seen Dona Maria Mole on the grocery store shelf here but have never heard anything good about it.

Mayordomo is a chain and has several stores in Oaxaca City. You can smell the chocolate being ground from a quarter mile away. The shops are full of big bags of unprocessed cocoa beans.

They have a big mill with a hopper where the cocoa beans, almonds and other ingredients for drinking chocolate or mole are poured in, and a thick wonderful chocolate paste comes out the other end.

Black mole is only one of the 7 traditional moles of Oaxaca but may be the most well-known outside the area. It is a mixture of chocolate, chiles, nuts, and other ingredients. Depending on who you ask, ingredients may include burned chile seeds, blackened tortillas, bananas, tomatoes, sesame seeds...

There are also other, smaller chocolate mills all over town. It is quite a cottage industry.

Anyway, I have been using my newfound mole this way: I heat some water in a frying pan, add some vegetable stock base (chicken is more traditional), get it all hot, put in a few tablespoons of mole paste, mix and let it cook down to a thick paste. I warm corn tortillas in foil in the toaster oven meanwhile. I dip the tortillas in the sauce until they are soft, fold them into quarters, top with a little Mexican queso and eat.

The mole is the tiniest bit gritty from all the dried and ground ingredients. But it is rich and tasty and good.

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