Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pretender or Contender?


I am not perplexed because the first day of the year -- in this location -- has been a continuous overcast with equally continuous mild wind, busy tossing about billows and sheets of also equally continuous rain. For that I am simply resigned. This is, after all, coastal Oregon in the winter.

No, my state of perplexity arises from Maggie's comment on yesterday's post, casually referring to the enchilada sauce as mole sauce. (Pronounced mo-lay.) Understand, Maggie, I'm not quarreling with that designation. I'm just confused by it.

See, I've always thought of mole sauce as a far more complicated dish to prepare, using a kajillion ingredients, taking up hours of time to prepare, and leaving a kitchen clean-up of awesome proportions. I get exhausted just reading the ingredient list, with its array of spices, seeds, nuts and fruits. Although there are countless variations on the mole recipe, that complexity seems to be a common characteristic.

Well, until today, that's what I thought. But Maggie got me to tunneling through the Google underground like a mole. (Pronounced like the furry little fellow with the frightful claws.) And, yes, I found tons of recipes in the ingredient-heavy mode. There is a fun and interesting article (with recipe) on the Texas Cooking web site that will give you a good picture of what my idea of mole has always been. And why I've never tried it, she said with a wry smile.

There is a less complicated mole recipe with lots of photos of the process, demonstrated by Adriana on a Mexican cooking site. Be sure to click on the link labeled "Cooking Directory" at the bottom of the page for plenty more good Mexican recipe links.

But I kept tunneling, mole-like, and, yes, I kept finding simpler and simpler mole recipes. I really should have expected it. Busy cooks are constantly experimenting and finding ways to simplify recipes so as to achieve more or less the same result with less effort and time. The traditional mole sauce is not immune. Some of the simpler recipes were exceedingly close to my enchilada sauce recipe. Exceedingly.

Still, I have to question -- gently, timidly -- the validity of those highly attenuated versions. Using chocolate, for instance, doesn't make it mole. It just makes it Mexican. In fact, not all mole recipes ask for chocolate. When I think of the complexity of flavor derived from the wealth of traditional ingredients, I find it difficult to believe the simplified version could really compare. Thus, do they actually have the right to call themselves mole or are they charming impostors with pretensions of grandeur?

Oh. Look. I guess this is where I should have gone in the first place -- the dictionary. And there are plenty of online dictionaries. And definition after definition tells me "mole" is derived from the Aztec (or Nahuatl) word "molli" -- which means concoction or sauce.

Oh. (blink, blink) Mole is a sauce. Whether complicated or simplified, it's a sauce. Which would mean my simple little enchilada sauce is really a saucy mole, just as Maggie said. Oh Maggie, you saucy wench. You knew that all along.

Speaking of "simple little enchilada sauce," I meant to mention in yesterday's post that you can use chicken broth instead of water when making the sauce. I had actually planned on doing that when I was making it but forgot. And then I forgot to tell you. Is there no end to my perplexedness? Is that a word?


kate et jim said...

Wow! I think I'll just wait till somebody else makes it and I'll just sit back and eat! lol

The Old Guy said...

Welcome to Perplex City!

bb said...

Microsoft Encarta Dictionary shows perplexed, but not your version. LOL

Funny I always thought it was moli so I was close eh?

Maggie said...

LOLOL.......and with Chocolate. So I was wrong too. But all that research is fascinating. I'll read all your links as soon as I am semi recovered from the cold that currently owns me. &*%$ )*I*()&%^$%OL&^%$8765BG !!!!

Dee said...

Kate, I agree. Traditional mole is more than I can handle -- but not more than I can eat.

Bill -- THWAP! (smile)

Bonnie, Microsoft Encarta has no sense of whimsy.

Maggie, your cold has you befuzzled. I said you were RIGHT. I had concluded Mexican sauces, by definition, are mole. Moles? Maybe we should call the complicated versions mole and the streamlined versions mole light. Heh!