As you guys know from my discussion of that pineapple pasta dish (which I still crave every time I look at the pictures!) I came home from the Caribbean with a fierce longing for pineapple. And yet, since the pineapples here are greatly inferior, that translates into a fierce desire to cook with pineapple, where the inferiority is not so noticeable.
I also came home from our afternoon in Cozumel with a craving for Mexican food. Which really does not distinguish itself much from any other time in my life since I am often craving Mexican food, but maybe I should say I came home wanting to discover more interesting, regional Mexican food. In the meantime, I have recently discovered Williams-Sonoma Savoring Mexico: Recipes and Reflections on Mexican Cooking, written by Marilyn Tausend. Her descriptions of traveling and eating throughout Mexico just have me mesmerized. I wish I were a braver, more adventurous person–I wish I could just travel throughout all of the states of Mexico and accept invitations to eat in random people’s homes. Or not panic when our car ran out of gas and I was left alone by the roadside while my husband went for gas. I would have been freaking out–Ms. Tausend ended up sharing an amazing meal with a woman walking home from the local market!
But alas I am not so I have been living vicariously through Ms. Tausend. And because I have been enjoying it so much, I decided to also pick up her Cocina De La Familia: More Than 200 Authentic Recipes from Mexican-American Home Kitchens (the Savoring series from Williams Sonoma has recipes, but not as many as they are part travelogue, photography book, and coffee table book). It does not have photos, but it does have a lot of delicious sounding recipes from Mexican home cooks in America who are still cooking the foods of their mother land. As soon as I saw the Colima style mole with a braised beef and lots of pineapple, I knew I was making it.
If you are anything like me, you associate mole with Oaxaca and their 7 famous mole sauces. There are other Mexican states as well that like to lay claim to the origination of mole, but as far as I can understand, much like the word curry, mole means “mixture” and many different regions of Mexico have their own version. This one is from Colima, a state in the west of Mexico. It is my understanding that the mole could be made with beef, poultry or chicken (and probably goat in Mexico), and with or without pineapple. Needless to say, for me the pineapple is crucial, providing a delicious sweet counterbalance to the earthy bitterness of the toasted pasilla chile peppers.
Ms. Tausend suggested serving this with corn tortillas and seasoned white rice. I prefer to avoid the double carbs, so my first preference for this dish is corn tortillas. And that is how I took most of the photos. However, it can be really hard to get decent corn tortillas outside of Mexico and outside of the cities. And it turned out mine were horrible, stale and crumbly and dry and just terrible. Sadness! So the next night I made a seasoned white rice with corn, and the mole was absolutely terrific then. I still believe it would be amazing with good corn tortillas, and healthier too, but if you cannot get good ones definitely make the rice (I provided a link in the recipe to a typical Mexican seasoned white rice). And do not skimp on the queso fresco (or feta) as it really balances the mole and tastes fantastic with it.
- 2½ - 3 lbs beef chuck or brisket, cut into 2-inch pieces
- about 2-3 t salt, divided
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1 cup water
- 6 dried pasilla chile peppers, seeded and toasted
- about 3 inches long skinny French baguette, sliced lengthwise in half
- 2 inch stick true (Ceylon) cinnamon (or 1 t ground Ceylon cinnamon)
- 1 large pineapple, outer skin removed, and core removed and set aside. Chop the remaining pineapple. Slice the core into thin slices.
- For garnish: fresh pineapple, chopped cilantro, queso fresco (or sub crumble feta), pickled red onions
- Serve with either corn tortillas (preferred if you can get good ones) or Mexican seasoned white rice
- Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a cooktop-safe slow cooker insert (or a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat. When it is hot, add the beef in batches, browning on all sides. While the beef is browning, prep your other ingredients.
- As each batch of beef is browned, set it aside in a bowl. When it is all browned, add the chopped onions and cook for about 7-9 minutes, until starting to caramelize. If it starts to scorch or stick, add a little (tablespoon or 2) water.
- Add 4 cloves worth of the garlic, cook for another minute.
- Add the beef back into the slow cooker insert (or add everything to the slow cooker if it is not cooktop safe) and add water to come about halfway up the sides of the beef, about 1 cup. Add the sliced pineapple core.
- Place in the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high.
- While the beef is cooking (or the night before if time is an issue), toast the chile peppers. Place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
- After 10 minutes, toast each piece of the bread and then add it to the chile peppers to soak as well.
- Let soak another 5-10 minutes.
- Add the soaked bread and chile peppers to a blender or food processor (I used a wet dry grinder which does the best job of all, kind of like a VitaMix), being certain to reserve the soaking water. Add the cinnamon and the remaining garlic. Puree until smooth, adding ½-1 cup of the chile pepper soaking water as needed. Puree in 1 cup of chopped pineapple.
- Set aside 1 heaping cup of the chopped pineapple.
- Add the chile puree to the slow cooker when the time is up. Add all of the remaining chopped pineapple except for the heaping cup you have set aside. Cook for an additional 1 hour on high or 2 hours on low.
- Taste the final dish for additional salt and black pepper.
- The end result with be quite saucy. If you choose to serve the meat with corn tortillas, I recommend using the beef with just a little of the sauce. If you choose to serve on rice, I would include more of the sauce. Either way, garnish with chopped cilantro, queso fresco (or feta), the reserved fresh chopped pineapple and pickled red onions.