Alvin Starkman, M.A., LL.B. (Article archive)
Two chefs from Oaxaca; one used old school methods of Mexican food preparation, and the other was raised in modern-day Mexico, university educated to be cognizant of flavour, texture and balancing, as well as of healthy eating. But the mole recipes of contemporary Oaxacan chef and owner of La Casa de los Sabores Cooking School, Pilar Cabrera Arroyo (recipe below), are no less intriguing and delicious than those of the Late Esperanza Chavarría Blando. The recipes of both have their origins in traditions passed down through generations of Oaxacan natives.
The Oaxacan mole verde of Chavarría is perhaps not good for the arteries, nor calorie management, but is certainly worth trying, since there’s nothing like pork spine to provide added flavor to the already-aromatic green mole with its savory hierba santa, epazote and cumin. Cabrera’s recipe, reproduced below with her permission, is distinct in terms of ingredients, manner of preparation, and presentation.
The difference between the mole verde recipes of these two chefs alone, gives credence to the almost indisputable opinion of most modern-day experts in Oaxacan gastronomy, that there are in fact many more than seven moles in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca Mole Verde Recipe of Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo
• 1 peeled, sliced chayote
• 12 green beans
• 5 hierba santa leaves
• ½ C. epazote leaves
• ½ C. parsley leaves
• 2 tomatillos
• 2 peeled garlic cloves
• 2 jalapeño chiles
• Pinch of cumin
• ½ C. masa
• 3 C. chicken broth
• 6 pieces boiled chicken
• Salt to taste
1. Boil chayote and green beans until they are cooked but still firm, “al dente” (about 5 minutes).
2. Wash hierba santa, epazote and parsley. Combine all the leaves, tomatillos, garlic, jalapeños, cumin and one cup of chicken broth in a blender. Blend to obtain a smooth texture. Strain through a fine mesh colander, then set aside.
3. Place masa in a blender with 1½ cups of chicken broth, and blend until the masa is completely smooth. Pour this mixture into a saucepan on medium heat. Cook and stir constantly, for 5 minutes. Continuous stirring is very important so as to avoid lumps from forming.
4. Add the blended mixture to the masa mixture in the saucepan. Add
more chicken broth if the mixture becomes too thick (it should maintain the consistency of a cream sauce). Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes on low heat. Do not over cook or cover, so as to prevent the mole from losing its optimal color and aroma
5. Finally, add the chicken pieces and vegetables to the mole sauce. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Notes Regarding Pilar Cabrera’s Mole Verde Recipe Ingredients and Presentation
• Chayote is available in most Latin American and Oriental food markets.
• Epazote and hierba santa are often not available fresh in Latin American grocery stores, but are frequently encountered dried or frozen, the latter being preferred. Some substitute the green of fresh fennel for hierba santa, while others use cilantro. Perhaps try some of each, with the weight going to cilanto.
• While the smaller criole tomatillos are the better choice, regular green tomatoes are a reasonable substitute. If using the former, the papery outer layer must be removed. When working with several tomatillos, the most efficient way to do this is to put the tomatillos in a bowl of water, and then remove the covering one tomatillo at a time.
• Masa can be made by using Maseca brand corn flour (for tortillas as opposed to tamales) and following the printed recipe. However, if there is a tortilleria in town, try passing by and buying a small quantity of its prepared masa.
• Different presentations are achieved if the chicken and vegetables are first arranged on individual plates, with the mole verde then poured or spooned on top of each; or alternatively, if the mole is first placed on individual plates, with the chicken and vegetables then strategically arranged on the sea of sauce.
Alvin Starkman has a masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. A resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes couples and families to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies working in southern Mexico, and owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience, providing Oaxaca accommodations which combine the comfort and service of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch of quaint country inn style lodging. Alvin also leads culinary tours of Oaxaca with Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com).