The One-Pan Technique To Make Mole Sauce In Almost No Time

Those of us who find ourselves craving a really well-made mole sauce might stop short of making it at home for no other reason than time considerations. Mole poblano (probably the most familiar version) is an intricate blend of dried chilies, nuts, seeds, fruit, chocolate, and fragrant spices. As you might imagine, making a batch involves quite a bit of frying, soaking, toasting, and simmering — a process that will clearly result in a pile of pans by the sink and an hour's washing up. Actually, no! It's possible to cook a deliriously good mole poblano using only one pan. The trick is frying all the different ingredients up in batches.

All you need is a little cooking oil and a heavy-bottomed pan. Once hot, add your dried chilies (some combination of pasilla negro, guajillo, and ancho will do nicely). When their skin has darkened, remove and soak in hot water until they're ready to be stemmed and seeded. Next, lightly fry the whole spices until fragrant (cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cloves, and the bright kick of black peppercorns would not go amiss here) and drain on paper towels. Now that the oil smells heavenly, pour in your favored combination of seeds and nuts. Perhaps pumpkin, sesame, hazelnut — whatever delights you the most. Remove these and drain alongside the spices. Fruit and bread will follow, ultimately leading to a sautéed foundation of onions, garlic, and tomatoes. It's this blended, simmering loveliness that will ultimately receive, and dissolve, chunks of Mexican chocolate. To save time and more washing up, simply whizz everything in that same pan with a stick blender.

The first truly international dish

Merging as it does ingredients and techniques from Africa, Europe, and pre-colonial Mesoamerica, mole has a legitimate claim to be the first global dish. It likely began life as a simple chili sauce, but gradually took on more complexity until it became the masterpiece we know today, perfectly combining earthy, sour, and sweet flavors. It should come as no surprise that even a traditional sauce like mole poblano has many regional variations, with individual cooks making its expression practically limitless. The possible chili, fruit, nut, and seed combinations boggle the mind as much as they tempt the tastebuds.

Oh, and there are dozens of other mole variations besides mole poblano, some without any chocolate at all. Regardless of which you choose to make (maybe the next one will be a dark, smoky mole negro?), if your mole recipe is some combination of fruit, nuts, seeds, spices, dried chilies, and various members of the allium family like onions and garlic — the one-pot method will serve you well. It will also save time and effort, and create the greatest sauté oil imaginable. After all, we're all here to indulge in the dish, not the dishes.