I grew up in Southern California where there is a very large Hispanic population and my mother was from South East Texas, where there is also a very large Hispanic population. So I am very familiar with a lot of the customs and traditions of Mexico and as well as the Mexican culture. And I LOVE good Mexican food.
As with the United States, Mexico is a large country with a lot of regions and regional cooking. In Southern California, the most popular type of Mexican food is Sonoran, or the Northern styles. In Texas, the traditional Mexican styles are mostly from the Gulf region. There are actually seven regions in Mexico that are known for their great cuisines. We go to Mexico a lot, mainly for diving, and we have been fortunate enough to try many of these different styles of cooking. We are very familiar with the foods from The South and especially Quintana Roo, since that is where we spend the bulk of our time when we visit Mexico. We are also very familiar with a lot of the Mayan and Yucatan foods, which are completely different again. I love all the different styles of cooking in Mexico.
- The North, which includes Baja, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas
- The North Pacific Coast, which includes Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima
- The Bajio or Michoacán, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi and Queretaro
- The South Pacific Coast, which includes Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas
- The South or Campeche, Yucatan & Quintana Roo
- The Gulf or Tabasco & Veracruz
- Central Mexico or Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo and Distrito Federal (Federal District / Mexico City)
Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Just like on St. Patrick’s Day when everyone is Irish for the day, everyone becomes Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, even if only for the day. I honored the day by cooking Mexican food too, although I prepared something more from the Central part of Mexico, in the Oaxacan style. I made a mole sauce from apples, peanuts, chilies, onions and tomatoes to go over my chicken. I served it with arroz verde, or green rice, and maize or corn and topped it with avocates, or avocados. !Este mui delicioso!
Moles are traditional Mexican sauces that are found all over the country. There are many different kinds and many different flavors, as well as many different colors. The name mole comes from the Ancient Nahuat’l word molli, which means “a bunch of ingredients ground up”. Moles are most typically made from a combination of chilies, spices, herbs, tomatoes or tomatillos, chocolate and seeds. The combinations are usually determined by the region where they originate. They can be thick or soupy, and can range in color from yellow, to vibrant green, to deep red and midnight black. Moles when made at home came use up to about 22 different ingredients and can take hours to fully cook and blend together. The task of making moles can seem a bit daunting at first, but really it is just roasting and grilling the vegetables and herbs and spices first, and then once that is done, it is just blending them all together to make the sauce. And like so many foods, they are often better the day after they are made, so all the flavors can fully mix together. The magic about mole sauces is that all of the ingredients used combine together in such a way that they surrender their individual identities and mesh together to create a whole new flavor that is unique to the sauce.
The mole I made this time was made from apples, chilies, peppers, tomatoes, onions and Mexican chocolate. In English, the name is Pasilla and apple mole. In Spanish, it is Mole de Manzana con Pasilla. It sounds so much more exotic in Spanish. This was a simple mole, and only needed a few ingredients, rather than 22 that many other styles require, and I even added a few of my own ingredients as well.
Mole de Manzana con Pasilla
3 1/2 oz pasilla chilies, seeded – if you cannot find pasilla chilies, try something different
1 white onion, quartered
3 tomatoes, split at the top
2 TBSP olive oil
1 lb sweet apples, sliced thin – I used Galas
1/2 cup peanuts, preferably raw
1 1/2 -2 TBSP garlic
1 tsp cumin
4-6 whole cloves
1 tsp cinnamon or Mexican canela (cinnamon sticks)
salt to taste
6-7 cups chicken stock
2 TBSP apple cider or apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP sugar
1/3 cup Mexican cocoa powder, or regular cocoa powder
red pepper flakes to taste
1 TBSP oregano
1-2 tsp chili powder or your choice – I used Ancho chili powder
1/4 cup cilantro
Roast the peppers and tomatoes until charred and grill the onion quarters until charred. Then sweat for a bit and remove the skins and the seeds from the peppers and rinse.
Preheat the oven to 500* F or 270* C.
To roast the tomatoes, remove the core and score the top of the tomatoes. Place them on a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and roast for about 20-30 minutes or until charred.
While the tomatoes are roasting, saute the apples in the olive oil, along with the herbs and spices until soft, or for about 6-10 minutes.
You can either add the peanuts at the same time or you can do them separately. This time, I did them separately, in the remaining juice from the apples, along with the apple cider. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Once everything is cooked and charred, the hard parts and time consuming parts are finished. Now all that is left to do is to blend it all together and add the remaining ingredients in either a blender or a food processor to turn it all into a sauce. You might have to make it in batches, depending on the size of your blender or food processor.
This sauce is smoky, sweet and spicy all at the same time. The flavors were so smooth, and literally like nothing else you’ve ever tasted. It is Mexican velvet. I used this sauce over chicken. I still had some of our latest Costco rotisserie chicken left that needed to be used. This sauce will also go very well with pork or shrimp too though. !Desfruitas! !Esta mui delicioso!
Feliz Cinco de Mayo a todos. Stay happy, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.