First: We have a winner of Rochelle Staab's debut novel, Who Do, Voodoo? Linda Jay, you're the winner! You'll be receiving your book and pen soon!
Now, on to leftovers...
They say all the stories have been told, and that our task as writers is to come up with fresh ways of telling them. I see leftovers in that light.
Unlike some other Pens I could mention, I was raised to use leftovers for something fun and exciting the next day. My mother was from a Cajun family, and boy could she turn just about anything into croquettes: fish, chicken, broccoli...she was gifted. And my father was the soup king -- everything went into the pot. And I mean, everything.
This was how I was taught to cook: not by finding a recipe and buying the ingredients -- that was cheating. No, we were trained to poke around the cupboard and the fridge and "come up with something." The challenge was to make the leftovers so interesting and tasty that no one recognized them.
So I have an idea for all those tedious post-Thanksgiving leftovers out there: Mole. Keep a jar or two on the shelf; it's as easy as, well, mole from a jar.
Mole (pronounced mole-AY) comes from mulli in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Though the Aztecs were devastated by the arrival of the Spaniards (and European diseases), they did not disappear. Their descendants, the Nahua Indians, survived, as did their language and much of their culture, especially culinary traditions.Mole simply means “sauce”--which is why it’s fun to see it referred to on menus as “mole sauce”. Guacamole, for example, literally means avocado sauce.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of different moles in Mexico. Like curries from India, In Mexico many a region or inventive cook (or family matriarch) maintains their own secret recipe, a complex combination of spices and ingredients.
The version most commonly known in the US is the poblano or “chocolate” mole, which includes unsweetened cocoa as one of its many ingredients. But there are also black, red, yellow, colorado, green, almendrado, and pipián (pumpkin seed) moles, just to name a few.
Moles might include walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin or other squash seeds, bread crumbs, sugar, orange juice, cilantro, fruit, plantains, garlic, onion, cinnamon, chocolate, and a variety of other spices. Most include several chili peppers, especially ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle.
Moles do what tasty, spicy, flavorful sauces all over the world are meant to do: they enhance -- or disguise-- whatever it is you’re eating. Bored with Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing and gravy? Shred or chop your turkey, mix it with mole, wrap it in a tortilla and it’s a whole new taste treat.
And once you've eaten your full, get back to writing that story: add some new spices, give it a little kick, and tell it in your own unique way.
Because guajolote en mole might start out with Thanksgiving leftovers, but it ends up being so much more.