Those beautiful chihualces chiles didn’t let me down. Last night’s mole sauce totally took me back to La Roca in Nogales. If only I’d recruited a local mariachi band and installed a few rock walls in our house, the teleportation to Mexico would have been complete.
I have to tell you, this was a huge relief. I had taste-tested my mole sauce a few times along the way since starting it on Sunday, and had my doubts. It just wasn’t wowing me. We tried it with beans and rice; it was good, but underwhelming. I kept asking myself if I really wanted to follow through on inviting guests over. But I had faith that the sauce gets better over time, and stuck it in the fridge for a few days.
It did get better over time, and it totally rocked with the chicken. Beans schmeans, gimme some of that white meat! It was so good I only wished I had bought another chicken or two.
Now, for the bad news. After trying this recipe three times and finally finding the satisfaction I was looking for, I’m not sure I’ll make it again. Like maybe ever. It’s a freaking lot of work. It’s not the cooking itself that’s so bad… well, apart from the near-death experience with toxic chile seeds, and the tiresome, smelly work of deep-frying. It’s the parts in between the cooking that don’t seem significant when you read the recipe. The initial step of gathering the seeds takes much longer than you would think. The blending of each of the purees, then the final blending and straining of the finished product is, well, straining. I had a back and elbow ache for two days afterwards. There’s a part in the middle where the recipe calls for a few spices, “preferably freshly-ground.” I grind my own spices all the time for Indian recipes; I’m not unused or opposed to it. But by this point with the mole sauce—the same sauce for which I made my own chicken stock, raised my own tomatillos, and carefully measured the chiles to the gram—by the time I reach this point of the recipe I’m so tired and just want to get on with it that I’ll say screw you, Rick Bayless out loud, and then reach for the jar of pre-ground cloves and cinnamon.
Those of you who’ve written to me saying you’ve considered making this recipe, I’m not trying to talk you out of it. All I will offer in the way of advice is this: take multiple days to prepare it, and start early each day. Otherwise your spouse may threaten to leave you. Also, for those of you living in civilized places who have such conveniences: order take-out if you don’t want to skip lunch and very likely dinner in the same day. Your kitchen will look like a crime scene and you will not want to lift another finger; not for freshly-ground spices, nor for tuna salad sandwiches.
In the end, is it worth the trouble? That’s a question only you can answer. As expats over here, living in close quarters in a remote place with not a lot of entertainment options, we entertain ourselves with lots of dinner parties. Sometimes the best ones are completely impromptu, or hobbled-together, or potluck. They can be a lot of fun, mistakes and missteps included. But sometimes you want to pour your heart and soul into something really special, and invite a special group of people over to enjoy it with you. Maybe it’s because we can’t just jump in our car and go to our favorite restaurant, or experience something new across town in Little Italy or Chinatown. Those options don’t exist here. If you want to teleport to Greece or Mexico or Ethiopia for an evening, you have to create the experience, from scratch, with your own hands.
Us girls in the expat wives club have been repeatedly inspired by each other and amazed at the things we can accomplish, despite our limited options in the way of groceries. Thanks to the power of the internet, a little planning ahead, some creative substitutions, and a lot of help from our friends, we can even make the hell out of Rick Bayless’ Oaxacan Black Mole, and be transported for one special evening. Yes, I’d say it’s definitely worth it.