07 April 2010

Feaster I: Hawt Chocolate

We thought about getting away for Easter weekend, but why bother? The trains would be packed, hotels expensive, and everything closed anyway. Why not take the long weekend to immerse ourselves in what we love doing most?

After recovering, we got to doing what we love doing second best: Cooking up a storm.

We've been on a Mexican kick lately, so we decided to continue the theme. Having all the time in the world, Alannah figured it was time she busted out her recipe for a pipián-inspired mole. (Pipian is a pumpkin seed sauce often eaten for Easter in Mexico.)

No mole recipe is the same. Some claim to be based on just a handful of flavors, others claim you must have exactly 38 components. Some cook relatively quickly. Others require a full day of simmering. But one thing is constant: Mole is labor intensive.

Pestel & mortar round 1: Peanuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds
Pestel & mortar round 2: Chilis and bread crumbs
My wrist and forearm hadn't gotten such an intense workout since I was single, as Alannah had convinced me to spend over an hour grinding down roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chili negro, chipotle, and guajillo chilis. I remembered not to burn my junk this time.

Then it was time to simmer it in a bit of lard, add cinnamon and – the key component to a proper molé – bitter chocolate. The key is to put in just enough to give it a distinct taste of chocolate, but not so much that it tastes like you just felched Willy Wonka. This is the case at many a bad Mexican restaurant, unfortunately.

Mole can be used in many ways. The most common is to braise chicken in it. Still sporting corn tortilla's from the other night's Parisian Mexi-ventures, Alannah opted for enchiladas. So I simmered shredded chicken (thanks to leftovers from a rotisserie chicken we'd kept on hand) in the mole while she very lightly fried the tortillas. They were then given a fisting of chicken mole and some locally made queso from the Latin American store we recently found in the 9th arrondissement. Then they were rolled and laid seam-side down in a baking dish, covered with more mole and cheese, and baked for around 30 minutes.

Chocolate-chili tubes of lovin'
Crispy, saucey, and bursting with mole flavor. Mole has such an intense, complex, deep flavor that it pairs well with just about any otherwise unadorned item... Simple cheese. White meat poultry. Rice...

Chocolate Bunny
And, of course, conejo, a.k.a. wabbit. I'd initially gotten the idea for this when joking with an otherwise vegetarian friend in California who had tweeted that she was making lapin à la moutarde for Easter. I said she should stew it in mole and it'd be a chocolate bunny. Get it? Har. Well, my fancy wannabe haute cuisine food geek got the better of me. I passed the mole through a chinois, laid strips of rabbit filet over it, and garnished it with steamed strands of spring onion for a bit of Easter grass. To go back to Easter's pagan roots and symbolize fertility, I added a second garnish of pepitos – fried pumpkin seeds coated in lime and chili.

We didn't stay high-brow for long, though. To add some sort of vegetable to the meal, I whipped up a huge batch of guacamole. This is no big deal for a Californian, but even in avocado-rich France, it's nearly impossible to find a good guacamole outside the home. At best, you get real ingredients that have been abused in a blender. At worst, it's the powdered stuff from a bucket. Which is all very sad, considering it's easily made by simply mashing together some very commonly found ingredients... With a fork.

No blender or Cuisinart necessary
Or two forks, as I like it. Avocados, plenty of cilantro (coriander), lime juice, seeded & diced tomatoes, diced sweet onion, and a touch of minced garlic. No blender. No sour cream. And certainly no mayonnaise. (WTF, right?)

Burns so good.
Going in and out.
This being a holiday meal, one must have a classy pairing, right? Well, a good Mexican meal calls for a good tequila, and if you insist on ruining it, turning it into a good margarita. (Use lime juice and sugar – please don't buy mixes!) But being who we are, we had to veer a little from the expected terrain of vanilla and make a michelada.


Next time you want a cold drink to go with your chips and homemade guacamole, rim a pint glass with lime and salt, maybe some cayenne pepper if you like a little burn around the lips. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime, a dash or two of hot sauce, and pour in a cheap golden beer. ¡Salud!


  1. Haha, you made the chocolate easter bunny after all? Bravo!! :)

  2. I can't help it, a bad pun as food? Of course!