The Family Jewels

I really didn't really think you'd notice. I thought I could slip quietly out the back door and relax while you were all having a good time. I was positive that you wouldn't miss me at all—not while you were busy sitting down at the table eating five of your mother's tamales in one sitting (and living to regret it). Not while you were munching on buñuelos and enjoying all of those traditional goodies that we mexicanitos crave and just die for during this time of year.

All I can say is muchísimas gracias, mis amigos, to those who missed me. No, I mean it-deveras. This super-short pocha who speaks el español with a funny LA accent is amazed that you even care. It's nice to be back.

What can I offer you to atone for my absence but one of the family jewels? Only the kind of recipe that will send your taste buds reeling into mole (MOH΄-LEH) ecstasy. That once you taste this simple dish made with chicken or turkey, will make you forever regret making what my acerbic but witty sister Ester jokingly refers to as gutless "lazy loser" mole from a jar found at the supermarket. And surprise, surprise, this little culinary gem comes from the Mexican heartland itself, Zacatecas.


Not exactly known as a foodie mecca, Zacatecas is more famous for its colonial architecture and for its bloody history—donde los hombres son altos, feos y bien machotes—where the men are tall, ugly and macho to boot—than for its culinary reputation. Perhaps this mole doesn't hog the spotlight like those superstars of the mole world: mole poblano or oaxaqueño. This is mole stripped to a beautiful simplicity, almost as austere as the Zacatecas' mountainous and semi-arid terrain.

Some have called this Zacatecas mole minimalist in comparison to the baroque complexity of other moles, but there is nothing minimalist about its flavor. A pure red fusion of the hot chile heat of California (mild), New Mexico (hot), Guajillo (sweet) and de Árbol (very hot), braced by the tang of green tomatillos and thickened by a small toasty bolillo, the Mexican French bread, touched with a hint of cumin, makes my mother's mole anything but. I have always loved its glistening redness and appetite inducing golden undertone. It is a gorgeous and unembellished mole, as straight shooting as the people of Zacatecas itself. Like my mom who was a take-no-prisoners kind of a cook.
In the end, Mexico has many magnificent moles, each with some delicious characteristic all its own. It is a festive dish, meant for weddings and other special gatherings. Maybe your family's mole is rich and complex, or maybe it is just mole out of a jar (in which case I say no tienes vergüenza!—have you no shame?), it is meant to be enjoyed when family gets together. So enjoy it, savor every bite and thank the one who made it .

As for my family's little culinary jewel, I think it's time that it step out of the shadows and into the limelight at last.

Zacatecas-Style Mole de La Familia de Clementina

Mole estilo zacatecano de la familia de Clementina
Señor Glutster himself,
Javier Cabral, teenager, food blogger extraordinaire with a "really, really fast metabolism" has beaten me to the punch with his post on Zacatecas-style mole. The likes of Andrew Zimmern of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods and celeb chef Ludovic Le Febvre have made the trek to East Los Angeles where Javier lives with his family. There, his Zacatecas-born mother cooked up some "bizarre' fare such as delicious cactus, menudo, and toasted grasshoppers for Mr. Zimmern, and introduced Monsieur Le Febvre to the glory of Zacatecas mole and pipian. Thanks, Javier, for proudly showing off your mom's cooking to the world. You are a mamá's boy in the very best sense!

Note: this recipe is for chicken mole. If you are making turkey mole (12 to 15 lbs.), simply double the recipe.
1 whole chicken
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns 
4 average size tomatillos
3 dried California chile pods
4 dried New Mexico chile pods
2 dried Guajillos chile pods
2 dried Chiles de Árbol
1 small bolillo bread. 2 slices of loaf bread, toasted to a golden brown is a perfect substitute.
pinch of cumin to taste

Directions:Cut the bolillo in half lengthwise and place it in a 350 degree oven and allow it to toast for about 10 minutes or so, or until it is crunchy and golden brown.
In the meantime, place the tomatillos in a small saucepan, add water to cover, place a lid on top and allow it to cook until the tomatillos are soft.   Cook the chicken: Put the chicken in a large pot, add water to cover and add onion and 1 clove garlic and a heaping teaspoon of salt. Bring the chicken to a boil. Use a large spoon to skim off the scum that rises to the top. Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low and allow it to cook until the chicken is tender. Remove it from the pot, letting it cool for a some minutes, and shred it into large pieces. Discard the bones, keeping the drumsticks intact. Make sure to remove all of the skins. Nothing grosses me out more than biting into a soggy pellejo (piece of skin). Using a large spoon, skim the fat off the chicken stock.
While the chicken is cooking, take a small thin knife to slit each chile lengthwise and gently remove the seeds. I use my fingers, but wash them right away after I am done. Toast the chiles on a hot oiled comal or skillet for a few minutes. When the chiles change color and give up their hot but delicious aroma, remove them immediately before they burn and turn bitter. Set them aside.
Pour the hot tomatillos and its water into a blender. Smash a clove of garlic, tear the bolillo into chunks and put them into the blender with the tomatillos and blend until smooth. Cut the stems off the chiles and, one at a time, place them into the blender and whirl them at high speed until the mixture turns into a smooth is and almost as thick as pudding. (Just remember to create a vent at the top lid of the blender or your chile mixture will explode all over the place as I have learned to my chagrin.) Do a taste-test as you add the chiles. Add California chile to make it mild. New Mexico to add more heat. Guajillo for sweetness. Little De Árbol to make it even hotter. Just make sure that you use 9 or 10 chiles (not including the De Árbol.) the mixture should be fiery red.
Pour the mixture into a large skillet or pot. Then, ladle some of the chicken stock into the pot and stir until it resembles thin spaghetti sauce.  Add a pinch of cumin to taste and adjust seasonings. Add the chicken pieces, stir and cover. Simmer for about ½ hour or until thickened.Tastes maravilloso the next day.


JodieMo said...

This looks wonderful and delicious. Boy, did I miss you. ;) Welcome back

Chef Luck said...

Glad to have you back and looking forward to more of your amazing blog. It always brings me back to the simple food I love. Tamales should be next on your storytelling list.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new follower and have been waiting for a post.
I love good authentic Mexican food, glad I found your blog, because I can't cook a lick of it. I just eat it.
Going over to my mom's soon for some homemade Pozole. Num, num, she makes the best!
Happy New Year!

kobico said...

Ooh, mole! Me encanta! I've never had Zacatecas style mole, but now that you've posted the recipe, I'll have to try it!

Speaking of tamales, I got to help my best friend's aunt make them one year when I visited her down in El Salvador (and I got to watch her housekeeper kill the chicken for the tamales ... it's like a train wreck, it's a riveting scene). The Salvadoran tamales are a little different, a bit less sweet, and wrapped in banana leaves, which give them a slightly different aroma. I wish I'd gotten the recipe from her, now...

Anonymous said...

Great to see you again! This mole looks delicious. Happy New Year!


Clementina said...

Like I said, it's nice to be back and thanks to those of you to told me to get off my butt and start cooking!
Kobico, I've never have had Salvadoran tamales, but I have had Oaxacan tamales, also wrapped in banana leaves. They were simply some of the best tamales I have ever had.
Oh, and I'm with you on watching a chicken getting its head chopped off for the mole. You CANNOT help but watch in horrid fascination.
Maybe I'll switch to chilecheeese tamales instead!

glutster said...

Feliz Nueva Decada!
Hooray for posting this!

My mom wasn't too fond of me posting the proportions of each ingredient (hay diferente en cada quien! que no?)

Tomatillos would seem interesting, my mom keeps it puro chile. And her thickener is toasted purple corn :)

But yes! You and me need to boost up Zacatecas's food reputation! Hell, even if its only you and me.

you up for it the challenge this year?

...I've already started with a recipe of Ponche Zacatecano :)

happy eating!

Clementina said...

Hola, Senor Glutster!
Boosting Zacatecas' food reputation seems like quite an interesting proposition. As long as I can find a worthwihile recipe, I'm in!
Too bad for me that when I was younger I was not the least bit interested in cooking. When my mama passed away, we lost a lot of her recipes, much to my deep regret. How sad that I never took the time to write them down . . .

Dawn said...

I had just found your blog when you went away! I am soooooo glad you are back to it!

Grace said...

Mmmm. my mouth is watering thinking about this dish. I can't wait to try it.

Silvia said...

thank you, thank you! ive been looking for something as authentic as possible! cant wait to try it.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for a flour tortilla recipe when I found your blog. I love your writing style and sense of humor. Besides that your recipes are great. I love to cook Mexican food. My mom passed away a couple of years ago and I regret not having written down some of her recipes like for tamales,and mole. I can make her rice but it never comes out as good as hers. The same goes for the frijoles that I make. Pues ni modo.

Pedro Garcia Millan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clementina said...

Hola, aliciag!
Bienvenida a mi blog! I'm so glad that you like it, because it is a labor of love and a tribute to my mom and all those magnificent hardworking women who made our world a little more wonderful.
And yes, I know the heartbreak of of losing a mom and never writing down her glorious recipes . . .
Come again!

lisarenata said...

Hay, hay, hay! You are making my boca water! Mole is so my favorite food! Yes, yes, YES! And I have not had it since my chiquito was diagnosed with a sever peanut allergy. You see the mole I make has peanuts in it. I am so glad to see a recipe with out them. I am so going to have to make this. I am, I am.
Now just a little preguntita? Can I make tons of the salsa and freeze it? that way it is nice and ready for when we feel like having mole?

gracias. and yes, you were missed.

Clementina said...

Hola, Lisa Renata!
I'm so glad that your little boy can eat my family's mole.
Now, about freezing it: yes, I think you can freeze it. I distinctly remember my mother freezing it, although I never have had to. It is certainly worth a try.
Take care, and happy cooking!

YayaOrchid said...

Oh, man! Am I glad I found your blog! So....Mexican! I love it!

Your mole looks pretty much like mine. Looks delicious!

I'm adding you to my blog list!

Clementina said...

Hola, YayaOrchid,
Muchisimas gracias for your kind words. I hope my family's mole tastes just as good as yours!
Cuidate mucho!

Gustavo Arellano said...

But do you know how to make asado???

Clementina said...

Dear Senor Arellano of "Ask A Mexican" fame,
Actually, that is one dish that my Zacatecas-born mother never prepared, curiously enough. So, no I've never cooked it myself. Would YOUR Zacatecas-born madrecita care to share her recipe?

Calypso said...

Xico Mole - hard to beat (Xico, Veracruz).

Clementina said...

Dear Senor Calypso,
Looking forward to learning more about Xico mole on your enjoyable living-in-Mexico blog.

sara said...

Woot! No more mole-in-a-jar for me :) This is lovely and I think I could manage it without messing it up, even...


Clementina said...

Hola, Sara!
I love any blog that features gardening and food and love for nature, and yours is it. And, you know what--I'm totaly with you on getting kids to eat their vegetables. If my mama put something green on the table, she was not going back to cook something else just because I didn't like it. How else was I going to learn to eat chiles and cactus?

sara said...

Buenos dias, Clementina!
I was at the local taqueria last night getting take out after messing with plumbing issues last night. And saw one of the cooks throwing together 8 different plates of tacos, and then he called out the order number, etc.

Finally, this lady goes up to the counter and starts asking all these questions and making special requests. "My son doesn't like onions and my other son doesn't like cilantro and I need to know which one is the carne asada and which is the carnitas..." etc. I shrugged slightly, and walked off to buy the beer while the dood waited for our order.

When we were on our way home he tells me, "I am so glad I don't cook for people. The poor counter guy finally asked that lady, in Spanish, 'What, are your kids American or something?' and then he had to just remake the order. So wasteful!"

I mean, yeah, kids are quirky. But seeing that right after I've been thinking about this school lunches thing and kids and veggies. And then your comment about your learning to like chiles and cactus...

Clementina said...

Hola, Sara!
Ha! When a kid is THAT picky I have a sneaky suspicion that all he or she is eating McDonald's and other dumb-down bland corporate food. I certainly am never going to remove onions or cilantro from my comida.
As my old neighbor used to say in her heavy Mexican accent, "If you don't like it, LEMP it!"

Sisbythebeach said...

Gotta hand it to you, that mole does look just like the one my mom used to make. The color is like no other. Not the dark color once chocolate is added. The clear red of a sunset-beautiful! I haven't had it in so long, that I can't remember if I ate it with corn or flour tortillas! Heck! I think either one would do nicely.

Clementina said...

Hola, Sisbythebeach!
I hope you will cook this mole and add some touches of your own so it can taste just like your mother's.
Gracias, and thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Hola Clementina,

I love your blog site and will try the mole recipes. For those times when one is hungry for mole but doesn''t have the time or energy, there is a commercially made mole product made here in Topeka Kansas. It's been made for nearly 100 years by Pedro Lopez Brand and its the best I've ever had for something off the shelf. It comes in concentrated form in a 1 Lb jar, just add chicken broth and enjoy. They ship it all over the US. They don't yet have a website but can be found with a google search and are on Facebook.
Keep up the good work! Rogelio