Month of February: “Truly Mexican” Recipe: Xico-style Mole

“I hope the end is joyful and I hope never to return.” Frida Kahlo

Moles are complicated sauces. They have many ingredients and each one needs individual attention. Kind of like our emotions and especially like our relationships.

Losing Abby pushed me to dig into the avoidant complexity of my past in a way I have never experienced before. I have been working especially hard over the last two years to relive my trauma based memories and put language to the associated emotions but much more importantly to allow the feelings in and to feel them! When I let in how I felt, in all the complicated and confusing experiences that made me who I am, I shift in a monumental way and then in time, I change. I grow. I become something fresh.

We get so little time in this life to untangle the crossed wires of our human experiences. And by that I mean when our head and our heart are misaligned. Our hardwired survival instincts deceive us into believing we have all the time in the world. I am certain that this challenging work of exploring where I came from, where I am now and where I am going is paying off and I hope the end is joyful. Like I hoped Abby’s last moments were as she prepared her beloved coffee, not alone, on an early spring morning in May. I imagine the surrounding long awaited warmth, the full spectrum of greens, the light shimmering on the Mississippi River and the renewal of life as a beautiful backdrop in which a very special being, my soul sister, was released into the unknown. Knowing her in life and losing her in death has been a remarkable journey. She was a gift that I have learned to fully embrace and receive. I changed her and she changed me. We both were profoundly lucky.

Abby’s mom Janet with stepdad Mark releasing the remainder of her daughter’s ashes into the Caribbean Sea, Isla Mujeres, Mexico in February 2020. Other ashes were buried in the soil at Green Hollow Cabin as well as into the waters of the mighty Mississippi.

Ingredients: 9 mulato chiles and 3 pasilla chiles wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded and deveined, 1/2 cup of raw hazelnuts, 1 medium tomato, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 coarsely chopped onion, 4 garlic cloves, 1.5 teaspoons salt, 1/4 cup raw almonds, 1/4 cup raw pecans, 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, 1 small or 1/2 large ripe plantain peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 slice baguette, 3 tablespoons of unhulled sesame seeds, 1 inch Mexican cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 5 whole black peppercorns, 2 whole cloves, 1 corn tortilla, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1.5 ounces Mexican chocolate. 1 recipe of poached chicken

1. Poach 1 chicken cut up or use whatever chicken parts you like, in 6 cups of water along with a carrot and 1 celery stalk cut up in large pieces, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 30 minutes. Use chicken stock for mole. Preheat oven to 350 F. Soak the chiles in water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Wrap them in a towel and let them steam which will help remove the skins. Then gather up the edges of the towel and rub off skins as best as you can. Or buy skinless ones and make this easier.

2. Increase the oven to 500F and core the tomato and cut a small X through the skin on the opposite end. Roast the tomato for 20-30 minutes with cored side up. Slip the skin from the tomato and transfer to a bowl.

3.Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic about 3-5 minutes. Transfer this to a blender along with with drained chiles, salt and 1 cup of chicken stock. Blend for 3 minutes until very smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl.

4.Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers and fry the following ingredients one by one (hazelnuts for 3 minutes until they are deep golden, almonds about 2 minutes, pecans about 2 minutes, pine nuts about 2 minutes, plantain slices about 3 minutes, raisins 1 minute, prunes 1 minute and bread about 2 minutes until golden.) As they fry, use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.

5.Toast the sesame seeds, peppercorns and cloves in a dry skillet about 4 minutes. Using tongs hold the tortilla over a burner and toast until dark and golden brown. Crumble into fried ingredients.

6.Working in 2 batches, put the fried and toasted ingredients in the blender jar along with the roasted tomato and 1.25 cups of stock per batch for a total of 2.5 cups. Blend until mixture is smooth about 3 minutes.

7.Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy pot over medium heat and carefully pour in the chile puree and nut puree, stirring and bring to a simmer. Add the brown sugar and chocolate and stir until chocolate melts. Simmer for 10 minutes until it thickens. It should be a velvety consistency, add more stock if needed. Simmer very gently for 30 minutes longer and season with additional salt.

8. Add poached chicken or turkey, can use shredded or whole. Heat for an additional 15 minutes gently. Serve with corn tortillas, rice and beans. The mole improves after a day in the refrigerator and will keep up to five days without meat, 3 with. It can be frozen up to a month.

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