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olé mole

Mole – when most gringos think of mole, they immediately think “Oh, that Mexican sauce that has chocolate in it.” Not necessarily true, there are a wide number of sauces that are moles and only one of them contains chocolate. The word mole comes from the Nahuatl word “milli” which means “sauce” or “concoction”.  The most common or widely known mole in America is guacamole, meaning “avocado concoction”.

Moles can be black (negro), red (rojo), yellow (amarillo), and green (verde), to name but a few. Mole negro is the most labor-intensive to prepare. It traditionally has six varieties of chile peppers, seeds, nuts, spices, herbs, and chocolate.

Another confusion here (possibly it is only my own personal confusion) is the spelling of chile/chili/chiles/chilies – as in chile pepper. I am certain that I have spelled it in a variety of ways on this site in previous posts. But beginning today… I am going to go with the expertise of chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Mark Miller. Mark wrote the definitive book on the matter in 1991, The Great Chile Book, which is a fabulous resource for all things chile!  On page 6, Mark addresses the subject, “…Even the spelling of the word chile gets confusing, as it variously appears as chili and as chilli. These alternate spellings depend on how the word is used, or which part of the country you’re in, and even on a personal whim! … chile refers to the plant or pod, while chili refers to the traditional dish containing meat and chiles… and chilli is the commercial spice powder that contains ground chiles…”  Now, we’ll just see how long I can keep myself from getting confused, since my spell check shows all spellings of the word as wrong, except chili and chilies, darn it!

This mole verde is outstanding on fish, chicken, eggs, and pork. Marissa and I even ate the leftover sauce with chips. Quite honestly, I would not be ashamed to just use a spoon to finish it off!

Chilean Sea Bass with Mole Verde

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound tomatillos, husk removed, washed well, and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 long green chiles; roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsely leaves, chopped
1/3 cup pepitas (unsalted shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2  to 2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 Chilean sea bass fillets
Olive oil

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil, onion, tomatillos, and garlic and sauté until onion is soft and translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in cumin and oregano. Cook for another minute. Add long green, poblano, and jalapeno chiles and cook for 3 minutes.

Place the mixture in a blender or food processor along with the cilantro, parsley, pepitas, chicken broth, and rice vinegar. Puree until smooth (mixture will not get silky smooth, it will be slightly grainy).

Return mixture to skillet. Partially cover with lid to prevent splattering and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

While mole is simmering, preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush the sea bass fillets lightly with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Grill fillets until just opaque in the center, about 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  Transfer to dinner plates, top with mole and serve.

Serves 4

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1 David Bickford { 03.23.10 at 10:50 AM }

Linda, I think we knew each other long, long ago via AIWF. In any case, nice blog and good to hear about the cooking school. I’ll keep it mind for when my daughters are old enough. I love moles, although I find their lengthy ingredient lists daunting. I’ve enjoyed some good moles negros recently at various restaurants around town, most notably Pepe’s Taco Villa, El Nopalito, and La Condesa, all in Central Phoenix. Do you know of any local places serving the other types of moles mentioned above?

2 Linda Hopkins { 03.23.10 at 11:29 AM }

Hi David. Yes, I remember you from the dearly departed AIWF. I like your Phoenix Rail Food site… very cool. I haven’t ridden the light rail yet, but I will certainly consult with your site before I do! Los Sombreros in Scottsdale offers Puerco en Mole Verde (simmered pork in green mole sauce) which is to die for! Tradiciones at Ranch Market on Roosevelt has a great mole, although now I can’t recall what color it is, just remember that I loved it! And in Tucson, Cafe Poca Cosa chef, Suzana Davila, changes the menu twice a day, but when she has mole… heaven!

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