In the authentic Mexican kitchen, one of the most revered recipes is that of “mole” a complex sauce, as rich in varied ingredients as it is in family tradition. Multiple generations of women work together in the kitchen, teaching the preparation to younger generations and handing down with it the stories that build kinship.
Here in the western suburbs, two women are bringing versions of this Mexican tradition to a larger audience, as a feature in their restaurants.
At Cine in Hinsdale, Chef Yanni Sanchez expresses extreme respect and appreciation for mole and its connection to Mexico.
“Mole Negro is the most important dish that we have in Mexico. Each state produces its own,” Sanchez explains. “You have to put all of the ingredients that the mole requires – there are twenty six ingredients.”
But respect for the authentic doesn’t stop Sanchez from making her own changes to traditional Mexican recipes, based on the culinary training that she received in France.
“Mole is everywhere – mole negro – it’s from Mexico but the way that I present the dish is totally different from the others,” she explains, “Instead of the classic rice I do risotto – creamy risotto. Most of the mole is served with plantain and I try to keep this tradition; but instead I do a sweet plantain coquette.
“We obviously respect the traditions of [Mexico] with our menu and have the classics, but we make Mexican food with the French techniques,” Sanchez says. “You can appreciate the ingredients in a different way when you combine two things.”
Playa Del Sol in Downers Grove makes mole and serves mole… but you won’t find it on the menu. You must ask for it specifically and Poy Piedra will gladly dish it up. Hers is a change to the traditional as well, in that the Playa Del Sol recipe has a bit less heat. Eager to share the food from her homeland, she adjusts her mole, and her other Mexican recipes, to be more accommodating of her customers’ tolerance to spice.
“Real Mexican food is spicy,” she says. “But here in the restaurant we don’t have too spicy food because our customers are American.”
Regardless the alterations, the traditions remain – multiple ingredients, high quality chiles, attention to detail. The results are Mexican recipes everyone can enjoy.
“There are thousands of ways of making mole,” Sanchez says. “The most important way is to do it with your heart – with all of your love – because if you do it that way then I can guarantee that everything will be perfect.”
Piedra urges diners to be open-minded when delving into food from another culture.