It wasn’t Valentine’s Day when Tita de la Garza prepared turkey mole. Were Cupid running the show, that meal would have been for her and Pedro, who loved Tita as much as she loved him.
Tita, the heroine of Laura Esquivel’s 1992 novel Like Water for Chocolate, was denied the opportunity to marry by her domineering mother. Instead, she made her love in the kitchen, and the people she fed had a way of responding emotionally to her cooking. Tita’s turkey mole recipe was no different.
To help you get in the mood for Valentine’s Day, here is an extrapolated version of Tita’s mole.
1/2 c. almonds
1/2 c. walnuts
1/2 c. sesame seeds (raw or toasted)
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (raw or toasted)
8 dried red chile pods, as many varieties as you like (pasilla, ancho, poblano, guajillo, etc.)
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 anise pods
2 tsp. black peppercorns
4 inches cinnamon stick
4 tbsp. chocolate powder, or substitute nibs in other form
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion chopped
1 tortilla or old piece of bread
olive oil, butter
1 turkey, or turkey parts
3 chopped carrots
2 celery stalks
Bake turkey at 350 degrees until you can pull the bones out once it cools. Set the meat aside, and put the bones and skin in a pot of water, along with carrots, chopped celery and an onion, cut in half. Simmer for at least one hour.
Clean the dried chiles, removing the stems, seeds and membranes.
With a heavy pan on low, add the almonds and pecans, and slowly brown—so slowly that you can almost forget about them while you attend to a second pan, on medium heat, to which you add the coriander, black pepper, anise, cinnamon and chile seeds. Stir often until they start to brown and the coriander seeds pop. Remove the spices from the pan and add the cleaned chile, torn into inch-size pieces. Turn the pan down and lightly toast the chiles.
When the nuts begin to brown, add the sesame and pumpkin seeds. When the sesame seeds start to brown, turn off the heat and let cool.
Gather the nuts, spices, seeds and chile into a stone mortar and pestle, or a food processor. Add the chocolate, and let it rip. When the mole gets too thick, add turkey stock until the mole is the consistency of a milkshake.
Add oil and butter to one of the pans and sauté garlic and onion, along with a pound or so of turkey meat and a crumbled roll or tortilla. Add broth as necessary to prevent burning. When the onion is translucent, add a half cup of mole and turkey stock, stirring together, and cover. Add more mole and stock if necessary. Season with salt.
Tita’s secret ingredient, which she shares with a guest who asks for her mole recipe: “The secret is to make it with love.”