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Mole Making Class and Mole Poblano for #CooktheBooks

This round Debra of Eliot's Eats chose our August-September selection. Her announcement post is here...and her joint Cook the Books-Food'N'Flix announcement is here!

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck* is our current Cook the Books project. Submissions are due at the end of next month, for both groups, you have some time if you want to join the fun.

images from
On the Page...
I can probably pick out a Frida Kahlo painting; they're pretty distinctive. But I definitely can't say that I knew much about her life before I read this book. So, I was instantly intrigued by the premise of The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo.

The titular secret book, containing recipes for offerings on the Day of the Dead, was found among her personal effects at  her childhood home, La Casa Azul. The book mysteriously vanished the day it was supposed to be exhibited.

This is just one of the many things that vexed me. Did this book actually exist? Did it actually disappear? Were these her actual recipes?? While it appears that this is a biographical work, it is labeled as "a novel." So, where do facts cease and literary license begin? I really have no clue and I found that doubt and confusion clouding my enjoyment of the book.

As in many novels from that part of the world, I'm thinking of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel or The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, there is an overt mysticism and a tangible connection between the spirit world and this world. For example, Frida regularly interacts with Death and the Messenger; her suicide attempt is even twarted by a woman who has been dead for many years.

Frida's identity could not easily be articulated. Artist, yes. Communist revolutionary, yes. Wife, yes. Lover, yes. I have to admit that her series of affairs, both heterosexual and homosexual, were a bit off-putting to me. And the explicitness of the sex scenes were also written in a decidedly juvenile manner. I want to say it's more a product of a poor translation more than poor writing. But I can't be certain. What I can say is that if even half of the stories are true, she led a colorful life with her volatility and her passions.

On My Plate...
While I didn't love the book itself, I immensely enjoyed the recipes in the book. Whether they were her actual recipes, or not, they sounded delicious. And out of pure serendipity, during the month when this book was assigned for Cook the Books, I attended a mole cooking class with several of our friends. This is the recipe we learned and not one of the ones included in the book. But I thought it was still timely and wanted to share it.

Mole. Apparently, it just means sauce - a sauce made with chiles. And Cesario Ruiz of My Mom's Mole who was teaching the class likened it to curry. "It's a like a Mexican curry. You know, every cook has a different way of making it and each curry tastes different," Ruiz said. "And you can taste the time, love, and passion in each one."

In that sense, I think this is a perfect recipe to share in a month that we're reading a book with a passionate protagonist who often made mole for her family and lovers.

When Jenn and I look the class ourselves, several months ago, we made a mole negro. This time around, we made a mole poblano which honors the Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico. The mole involved many, many steps that all included frying different ingredients in lard. "More lard!" one of the kids would holler over the the din of the hood fan. One of the kids quipped, "I think making mole is about love, passion, and lard."

Indeed, if you're squeamish about lard, this recipe is not for you. Cesario broke the recipe into groups of ingredients. He said that it would take him mom about three days to complete a recipe like this. With modern kitchen equipment, we were able to do it in about three hours.

makes 6 to 8 C of mole so you'll have lots and lots of leftovers for other dishes

Group 1
  • 7 to 8 pounds of pork, cut into large chunks
  • water
  • 1 carrot, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • 8 peppercorns
Group 2
  • 10 dried peppers (we used a mixture of pasilla and ancho peppers)
Group 3
  • 3 ounces raw almonds
  • 2 ounces raw pumpkin seeds
  • 8 T raw sesame seeds
  • 3 t minced garlic
Group 4
  • 4 cloves
  • 12 coriander seeds
  • 1/2" cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
  • 1 star anise, broke into small pieces
  • 1 T pepper seeds, reserved from Group 2 chiles
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2 T raisins
Group 5
  • 1-1/2 tablets Mexican chocolate
  • 3 small corn tortillas
  • 1 piece bread
  • 3 fresh tomatillos
Group 6
  • salt, as needed
  • lard, as needed (don't be shy!)


Group 1
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring it to a simmer. In a large, flat-bottom pan or skillet melt lard. 

Sear the pork pieces on all sides and carefully drop them into the water.

Heat the pan with another bit of lard. Cook the onions and carrots until they have a nice, golden color. Stir in the garlic and peppercorns. Saute for a few more minutes and add them to the pork stock. Once the stock has boiled for at least 30 minutes, taste and add salt as needed.

Using gloves, clean the peppers by removing the stems and seeds.

Save the seeds as they will be used later.

Melt more lard in the skillet and saute the peppers. They are delicate and you just needs them warmed in the lard.

Place the cooked peppers in a jar and pour in enough pork stock to cover the peppers. Every 15 minutes or so, turn the peppers in the stock, making sure they stay submerged.

Melt 1 T lard in a skillet and toast the nuts, toasting each type individually. When they are all golden brown, place them in the bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until they begin to pop. Place those in the bowl with the nuts, too.

Melt 1 T large in the skillet and toast the spices. I started with the cinnamon sticks, star anise, clove, chili pepper seeds, and ended with the oregano and the raisins. Once toasted, place them in the bowl with the nuts and seeds.

Toast the tortillas and bread in the skillet and set aside.

Peel and rinse the tomatillos.

In a large blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients into one large bowl - the peppers, the nuts, the spices, the tomatillos, the bread, and the tortillas.

Adding in stock, as needed, purée everything until the consistency you want.

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, pour in the purée. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the chocolate until melted.

Adjust seasoning as needed. One of the teams used more chocolate because they wanted it more sweet. Another team's mole had a nuttier flavor. And the third team added quite a bit of cayenne for a mole with great kick!

The evening of our class, we feasted with rice steamed in the pork stock, pork from the stock, and the moles. All three of the moles were different. One was more sweet, one was more nutty, and the last was the most spicy. All were made with time, love, and passion. What fun to taste the versions side by side!

Have you ever made mole? What kind did you make? I look forward to exploring more of the moles in the book.

Up Next...
Simona of briciole will be hosting the October-November Cook the Books. We'll be reading Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer.*

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.


  1. OH what fun!! I wasn't crazy about the book either and agree that it was very off putting not being able to rectify fact from fiction.

  2. Yes, I often wondered if translation was an issue and I am vexed as well about the secret slim volume of recipes....did it exist or not??? I still loved the book and it did remind me of Esquivel's. (I had forgotten about Allende's and I am a huge fan of hers.) I'm so glad you used the family mole class for this post!

  3. Camilla, love the pictures of your class in action, and that comment, "love, passion and lard"!! I attended a mole class at the Kona Chocolate Festival several years ago. Boy oh boy, delicious. Have made it once since.

  4. Your mole looks amazing! What a fun class!

  5. I was confused by the time jumps myself, but the variety of mole recipes was outstanding.

  6. What a fun class! I like that you tasted different variations.


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