Seitan and vegetables with mole sauce

November 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm (Beans, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Fall recipes, Mexican & S. American, Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Seitan, Winter recipes)

Years ago I ordered the OLÉ MAN SEITAN at Angelica Kitchen in New York City, and loved it.  It was a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with seitan and roasted vegetables and topped with mole sauce.  It was huge, but so tasty I finished the whole thing.  Afterwards, however, I regretted it, as I went into one of the worst salt comas of my life.  Still, I have fond memories of that mole sauce.  The recipe for the dish is in the Angelica Kitchen cookbook, and I tried making it once many years ago, without success.  I no longer remember the details, but I remember it didn’t taste nearly as good as at the restaurant.  But I had some homemade seitan to use up, and decided to give it another shot last night.

The first step in the mole sauce is to boil 2 cups of ancho chilis.  What kind of measurement is that for dried chilies?  My dried chilies were all different sizes but they were all hard and long and flat, and completely impossible to fit into a 1 cup measuring cup.  I decided to just use all my anchos, which ended up being 176g of dried chilies.    The chilies are added to a pot with water to cover, the whole thing is brought to a boil, and then the chilies are left to soak in the hot water until soft.  Finally, the stems and seeds are removed.

The next step is to fry peanuts, chopped almonds, raisins, and sesame seeds in 1/2 cup of olive oil.  I cut it down to 1/4 cup, as I usually find Berley’s recipes unnecessarily rich.   Initially I had the heat too high and the sesame seeds  and raisins started to burn a bit.  So be careful to keep the heat very low while roasting the nuts and seeds and raisins.  Then the chiles and nut mixture are pureed in a food processor with enough water to form a smooth paste.  I used the water that the chilies had been soaked in plus some water I had used to steam vegetables.  I tasted the chile water and it was slightly bitter but actually pretty mild tasting.  Finally, the puree is poured into a saucepan, more water is added, and the sauce is simmered for 20 minutes.  The last step is to add bittersweet chocolate and season with salt.  I only had 55% chocolate, so I used a mix of that chocolate and cocoa powder, but maybe that was a mistake.  I didn’t realize how much sauce it would make (the recipe says it makes 2 quarts, but I missed that note and thought I was just making enough for 8 burritos).  The sauce ended up tasting very bland.  I think of a mole sauce as being extremely complex, with lots of bitter, sweet, savory, and salty flavors.  But this one just tasted watered down.  Maybe I accidentally added too much water?  Or perhaps I didn’t use enough chilies?  Also, the sauce was still a bit gritty, even though I pureed it in the food processor for a long time.

The enchilada filling is made by sautéing onions, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, and garlic with cumin, bay leaves, and lots of thyme.  Again, the recipe calls for a lot of oil (1/3 cup!).  I decided 1 Tbs. was plenty, and indeed the vegetables tasted plenty rich enough when they were done.  The seitan is supposed to be ground up in a food processor, but I wasn’t making burrito filling so I decided to just cut the seitan in larger chunks and simmer it in some of the mole sauce.  After the seitan was seasoned I added the vegetables to it along with a can of kidney beans.

When Derek first tasted the dish he didn’t like it at all, but then he added nutritional yeast and hot sauce and said that took it from a C to a B.  He said my homemade seitan was too soft though—it needed to be chewier for this dish.  It was probably because I added tapioca flour.

I liked the combination of the veggies quite a bit.  The carrots and peppers had a nice toothsome quality, and I liked the mushrooms as well.  The mole sauce, however, was definitely not right.   Probably the whole dish would have been better as enchiladas than as just a stew.  I still have lots left.  Maybe I’ll run out on Monday and get some tortillas to turn the dish into enchiladas, but I worry that the vegetables will get overcooked.

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