Washington’s Mexican Cultural Institute featured a culinary program last week with Insitute chef Patricia Jinich and guest chef, Alejandro Ruiz, two delightful people who are excellent ambassadors for the subtle and refined flavors of Mexico.
You know there’s more to Mexican cooking than rice and beans and the three moles served proved it. A fruity Amarillo mole was made with a typical spice combination of thyme, cumin, oregano, peppercorns, and cloves. The dark Mole Negro had the smoky flavor we typically think of as a mole sauce, but it was the delicate Almendrado mole served over Cornish game hens that was a real palate-opener. The layered flavors of almonds, capers, that spice blend, parsley, tomatillos, and more blended into a perfumed sauce that had us scraping our plates.
Jinich, who can describe foods better than any poet, made the point that each ingredient “should accomplish something.” And while she admits that the layering of flavors created by the slow addition of each ingredient can be time consuming, she suggests making a big batch. “Moles get better, they need to sit and make sense of what they are.”
Aah, but don’t we all?
The moles were made with real Oaxacan ingredients, that Chef Ruiz was able to carry in, accompanied by a letter from the Institute confirming that he had been invited to cook, and was not smuggling! But Jinich stressed that a Mexican kitchen is a noisy and creative place–blenders buzzing, chiles smoking on a comal–and you should not be afraid to substitute ingredients.
Upcoming programs include Festive Mexico, The Cacao Route, and Mexican Fiestas.