One of my favorite food-themed movies is Chocolat. All those sexy close-ups of thick and glossy ribbons of deep dark chocolate. The dustings of cinnamon you could almost taste. And the revelation of chile-spiked cocoa! It's enough to make any chocolate and spice lover swoon.
Flash forward. Winter day. Steve is turning, smiling- devilish- in the late afternoon sun that slants through the square kitchen window, unwrapping (vegans please skip ahead now to when I acknowledge your goddess-given right for a substitute) a gorgeous grass fed ribeye steak from Whole Foods and ponders, aloud, Should we make some kind of stew tonight- something Sicilian, maybe? And suddenly- feverishly- I am possessed with the idea of mole- a lip smacking, foodgasm-inducing Mexican sauce, decadently rich and redolent with unsweetened chocolate and spices.
You know what happened next.
Before we get started, let me point out- right up front- I conjured this from taste bud memory. It's not a traditional (read: "authentic") mole recipe. It's more my idea of a mole recipe. Since I cannot read or follow directions worth a damn, anyway, I winged what I remembered tasting in my carefree, oblivious pre-allergenic days.
For those of you with a hankering for chicken- sub the beef steak with cuts of your favorite bird.
For those of you eschewing the animal kingdom, I don't see why hefty tofu steaks wouldn't be absolutely, downright fabulous in this recipe. I might add them half-way through cooking time, though, so that they don't fall apart from over-cooking (and, natch, use firm tofu).
I slow-cooked my recipe in a Crock-Pot because that's what works for me here at high altitude. You can follow suit and Crock Pot your little heart out. Or do it old-school style, in a heavy Dutch oven or soup pot.
1 2-pound or so ribeye steak, fat trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 medium gold or red potatoes, peeled, sliced
3 good sized carrots, peeled, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 cup red table wine (*may omit)
4 cups organic GF beef broth- reserve one cup to mix with the cocoa
1 14-oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
A good dash of balsamic vinegar- at least two tablespoons
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup diced roasted green chiles- the hotter, the better
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cumin
1 tablespoon chili or chipotle powder- spicy or mild, to taste
1 teaspoon dried herb mix- thyme/rosemary/oregano/basil
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
2 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
To thicken, later:
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
Cut the steak into four pieces and salt the beef on all sides. Wait a few minutes.
Kiss the cook.
Get your Crock Pot situated and cranked to High.
Heat a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides to sear in the flavor, using long tongs to turn the pieces. This doesn't take but maybe five minutes, or so. Remove the beef and set aside.
Add a generous dash of olive oil to the Crock Pot. Add the garlic, onion, potatoes, carrots and celery. Stir to coat with the olive oil. Place the beef on top.
Pour in the wine, three cups of broth, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, agave, raisins, roasted chiles, spices, dried herbs, two bay leaves, sea salt and ground pepper.
Add the cocoa powder to one cup broth (heating the broth helps to dissolve the cocoa- I did it in the microwave) and add the chocolate liquid to the pot. Stir a little bit to co-mingle ingredients.
Cover and let the magic happen- about 4 to 5 hours.
The stew is ready when the potatoes are tender- the beef should almost fall apart.
One half hour before serving, remove the bay leaves. Spoon out a cup of the broth from the pot and whisk the sweet rice flour into it; this slurry thickens the sauce. Add the slurry to the pot, lightly stir it in; cover and reheat through until the stew is thickened and rich.
Taste test for seasoning adjustments. Does it need a tad more salt? A dab more agave for sweetness? Ready to slurp?
Light a few candles, spoon the stew into soup plates, and dig in.
Traditional mole recipes add stale, crumbled corn tortillas at the beginning of cooking to thicken the sauce (I prefer the rice flour method).
Some folks add a spoon or two of peanut or almond butter. It is lighter without it.
Some recipes add chopped almonds.
Make it your own. Do your thing.