Mole Madre : New Worlder

“I find mole to be a fascinating, baroque, laborious, and complex expression, capable of fusing endless elements into new flavors.

Ours is a contemporary version of a classic mole negro (black mole), which originated at Pujol with the support of an initiative led by chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita in an attempt to rescue the chile chilhuacle, a Oaxacan chile in danger of extinction. We paid the farmers in advance as an incentive to reactivate the production areas and bought several sacks before the harvest season.

In March 2013, we were invited to participate in restaurant Quintonil’s first anniversary festivities: it was our chance to use these chiles in a celebratory dish such as mole. We made a large batch, and we later decided to serve it at Pujol.

If we reheated it, as is done traditionally over the course of a week—which is the usual length of a celebration—we knew it would become smoother. However, we wondered what would happen if we continued reheating it indefinitely. When we tried that, we discovered that not only was it possible, but the mole never stopped evolving. Since then, we reheat it every day. Then, as it is used up and we are down to ten liters—which is the case every two days—we add a new mole, made with ingredients that vary according to the season. Given the time of year, we may add pumpkin seeds, apples, Dominican baby bananas, hibiscus, tamarind, macadamias, and more.

The name mole madre (mother mole) refers to the idea of a mother dough in the bakery world. We fold freshly made mole into the base of old mole to continuously shape a flavor that evolves and becomes simultaneously more subtle and complex.

Unlike conventional moles, this one is made not with four chile varieties, but rather with just one: green, red, and black chilhuacle. And instead of frying the chiles, we roast them so that the mole isn’t oily. We also use digestive spices and avoid the typical animal protein broth.

Since mole is a universe in itself, we present it alone. We feel that serving it with freshly made tortillas allows our guests to enjoy it without distractions. That’s why we also plate it just as it falls straight from the spoon: in a circle. To highlight the passing of time and show how it all began, we place a small portion of a new mole in the center.

We’ve come to think of our mole madre as a living and breathing being; it speaks and even moves. We’re thrilled to observe its changing moods or tone of voice: we can tell when it’s enlivened or exhausted, when it needs something, and when it wants to be left alone.” – Enrique Olvera

enrique_olvera_mexico_phaidonClick here to purchase your own copy of Enrique Olvera’s cookbook Mexico from the Inside Out, courtesy of Phaidon.