Sunday, February 14, 2010
Joe and I decided that for Valentine's Day all we really wanted was to spend time together cooking something really awesome (though we try to do this all the time) We went all out today - squash enchiladas with a homemade red mole sauce, rice, and sweet corn bread (at some Mexican restaurants they put a small scoop of this on your plate or it may be served as a dessert. I made it from a packet and can of creamed corn). We also made honey spice cake with a mocha glaze for dessert!
I've never made mole, and quite honestly I'm not sure I've ever had it in a Mexican restaurant either. I thought it would be more liquidy, but ours was so thick a spoon could practically stand up in it. Regardless of how it is supposed to be, it was delicious, in my ignorant opinion (after thinking it over, I think maybe we should have used two cans of diced tomatoes rather than just one, and included some of the liquid in the can as well).
The normal recipe for this uses Monterey Jack cheese for the filling (two tablespoons for each tortilla). We made the variation for squash.
Squash Enchiladas with Red Mole
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
12 to 15 mild to medium dried chilies, like New Mexico, mulatto, pasilla, guajillo, ancho, (or a combination. Our Co-Op had New Mexicos and we had a few anchos in the pantry)
2 cups assorted nuts, like peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, and hazel nuts (here's your chance to use up small amounts of random nuts you may have lying around in your pantry, that's what we did!)
1/4 cup tahini or sesame seeds
1/4 cup cocoa powder or chopped unsweetened chocolate
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, peeled
4 plum tomatoes, cored (canned are fine)
2 thick slices white bread (stale is fine)
1 quart vegetable stock, or water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for frying
3 or 4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons anise seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Brown sugar as needed (optional)
24 small corn tortillas, plus more if they break
4 cups cooked, mashed, and seasoned winter squash (can use pretty much any winter squash -except spaghetti might be weird- so choose pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata, etc. I used two acorn and one large delicata)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco for garnish
1/2 cup chopped red onion or scallion for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
Preheat the oven to broil. Lay the chilies on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for a minute or two (it won't take long, don't walk away!). Then put them in a large bowl of hot water to soak (they will float, so we put another large bowl over the top to help submerge them). After about 15-20 minutes they should be soft and pliable. Holding the peppers over the bowl, pull off the tops and swish them around to remove the seeds. Tear them open and pull off the veins and remove any remaining seeds.
Put the chilies, nuts, tahini, cocoa, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and bread in a blender or food processor with just enough stock to get the machine going (we had to do two batches). I think the mixture would have been smoother if we had ground the nuts separately in our spice grinder and then mixed them in.
Put 1/4 cup of oil into a large deep pot over medium heat. Add the pureed mixture and all the spices, down to salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes fragrant and starts to color, about 3-5 minutes (I didn't really notice it color that much personally). Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes deeply colored and looks very dry, about 15-25 minutes.
Turn the heat back up to medium-high and slowly add the rest of your stock. We added a little water too. Bring it up to a boil, then lower the heat way down so it barely bubbles. Cook for about an hour, stirring every so often, adding more liquid as needed, until the sauce is thick and smooth (ours was VERY thick, but I don't know what it is supposed to look like). Taste and add more salt if necessary, and add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar if you want. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and keep warm (you can make the sauce up to three days ahead of time to this point. Cool, and refrigerate, then gently reheat on the stove when you're ready to use it).
Preheat oven to 350. Spread a thin layer of the mole into the bottom of a 9x12 (or 9x13) inch baking dish.
Pour about 1/2 inch of oil into a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking (we used a candy thermometer and waited until it was about 325 degrees), fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 10 seconds each, until they are softened and pliable. Add more oil to the pan if needed. Drain on paper towels (my grandma uses paper bags, but we didn't have any).
To fill the tortillas, put about two tablespoons of the mashed squash into the center of each tortilla, roll very tightly, and put into the pan seam side down. The rolls should be packed snugly against each other (I could not fit all the tortillas into the pan; I had about 3 left over and I ran out of squash filling anyway.) Cover the top with a good layer of mole and bake for about 25 minutes.
When they are finished baking, sprinkle the top with the queso fresco, scallions, and cilantro. Have some slices of lime available and extra mole to pass around at the table.