Maple Mole

PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

Mole is a typical Mexican sauce that is as famous for its long list of ingredients as for its deep, intense richness. Making the real thing can be daunting, and those of us not steeped in the tradition may be put off by the process, but a reasonable approximation is not so hard to make. Chile peppers are being grown by more and more farmers here in Massachusetts and it’s not impossible to make a mole featuring many different locally grown varieties. Whether your chilies are local or imported , you’ll also require a selection of nuts and some stale bread to help thicken the sauce. Maple syrup takes the place of chocolate in this recipe, providing a counterpoint to the intensity of the peppers. For this recipe it does help to have a food processor. This sauce serves as a savory contrast to sweet winter squash or rich duck breast. 

Makes 1 pint

2 dried ancho chiles (stems removed)
2 dried guajillo chiles (stems removed)
1 dried chipotle chile
1 dried cascobal chile (stem removed)
1 tablespoon ground ancho chile powder
⅓ cup slivered almonds
⅓ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 slice of stale bread
Kosher salt, to taste
3 cups of water

⅓ cup maple syrup

With scissors, cut the chilies into small pieces and shake out the seeds if you don’t want the mole to be too spicy. In a saucepan, add the dry ingredients minus the chile powder and salt. Place over a high flame and toast everything for a few minutes, until you can smell the aromas. Add the water, the chile powder and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. Transfer the whole mixture to a food processor and blend to a fine paste. Add the maple syrup while the processor is running and taste frequently. The syrup should be a pleasant background, but not a dominant flavor. Season with more salt if needed. Transfer to a lidded jar and refrigerate until ready to use; sauce will keep 2–3 weeks in the fridge.

BEN RIGBY is a professional cook, freelance writer and anthropologist. Amateur gardening and banjos round out the days. Follow him on instagram at @rigbybenjamin