Mexican moles can be an intimidating and time-consuming affair to make from scratch at home, what with upwards of 40 ingredients that need to be prepared and cooked for hours.
But that laborious process can be bypassed easily with new ready-made jarred moles from an impeccable source.
¡Ya Oaxaca! moles are by Chef Susana Trilling, a renowned expert and ambassador for Oaxacan cooking. She started cooking at age 10 alongside her grandmother, a chef from Tampico, Mexico, who ran a small cafe in San Antonio, TX. In 1999, she founded her Seasons of My Heart Cooking School on her ranch in Oaxaca, and has since taught countless lessons both in-person and online.
Her children have inherited her culinary passions. Son Kaelin Ulrich Trilling is the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s La Calenda in Yountville. He’s also involved in ¡Ya Oaxaca! moles, along with his brother Jesse Ulrich Trilling, who is the company’s head of operations, and his half-brother Azul Couzens, who is in charge of marketing, sales and distributions.
The moles, sold in shelf-stable 12-ounce jars, come in three varieties: Mole Rojo, Mole Coloradito, and Mole Negro. They are based on recipes handed down for generations.
Recently, I had a chance to try samples. The ¡Ya Oaxaca! web site includes recipes online, while the jar labels are printed with recommendations for what types of protein or vegetables best go with each mole.
The deep, dark Mole Rojo added a real punch of heat to smoked beef ribs, not the kind of warmth that sears your sinuses, but thoroughly warms the back of your throat and the rest of your body, then lingers. The heat comes from a blend of chiles: ancho, guajillo, smoked moita, and smoked chipotle. Tomatoes and raisins add a touch of sweetness. Peanuts and sesame seeds add depth, and Oaxacan chocolate a sweet earthiness.
The orange-hued Mole Coloradito is a little tamer in the heat department, With a smoky profile, it also has a bigger hit of sweetness from tomatoes, raisins, and plantains, It’s toastier and nuttier tasting, as well, from whole almonds and peanuts. It really woke up simple grilled chicken.
The Mole Negro is the darkest in hue and most complex, with layers of earthiness and an abundance of richness. Plantains and tomatoes again add a whisper of sweetness, corn tortillas body, cinnamon an autumnal warmth, Oaxacan chocolate a lovely velvety bitter note, and a blend of chiles — ancho negro, guajio, chilhuacle negro, pasilla Mexicano, and morita — provide both spice and spiciness. I can’t wait to use this one to transform leftover Thanksgiving turkey into terrific tacos.
The moles can simply be heated and used as a finishing sauce. Or used as a marinade. Or thinned with a little stock to cook food in, such as squash or enchiladas. They will jazz up most anything, leaving you with a dish that you will swear came out of a top Mexican restaurant, not your own humble kitchen.
The moles are sold at Berkeley Bowl, Mi Tierra, Farmer Joe’s, Rainbow Market, and online for $9.99 per jar. A sampler pack of one of each of the three different moles is available on the ¡Ya Oaxaca! site for $24.99 right now, but if you wait until Black Friday, the price drops to $19.99 plus free shipping. That sale price is good only until supplies last, so don’t dawdle.
More: A Visit to La Calenda