notes from the mexican kitchen
Mexican Weekend/

Ease into Summer with an Approachable, Adaptable Yellow Mole

Mexican_lightblueLogo_POST_170x177-copyWe all know that making mole can be an all-day (or even all-weekend) affair.

This isn’t that mole. 

No, this Oaxacan yellow mole is the everyday sort, one that can be served with a lot of stuff—I’m thinking vegetables or chicken—you may already have in your pantry and fridge. What’s more, it’s infinitely adaptable.

For example, I’ve swapped out the traditional hoja santa for more common (at least in Chicago) fennel fronds. As for the spices, well, you can simply leave them out. I know plenty of Oaxaca cooks who do.

Here, I’m using chicken broth to lend the sauce its body and sweetness but you can use vegetable broth with equally satisfying success. And I’ve chosen three vegetables to spoon the mole over, but feel free to grill what you find that’s fresh and eye-catching.

It’s also perfect with grilled fish and mussels, too.

Mole Amarillo with Grilled Fennel and Portobello Mushrooms
Servings: 4


  • 4dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into several pieces
  • 8ounces canned fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2small white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1teaspoon dried oregano, preferable Mexican
  • 5 cups chicken broth (divided use)
  • 1/4cup vegetable or olive oil (divided use)
  • 3 tablespoons masa harina or a generous 2 tablespoons fresh masa
  • 1large fennel bulb, about 1 pound, fronds cut from the bulb and roughly chopped (you need 2/3) cup
  • 4 medium portobello mushroom caps (you can use a spoon to scrape out the dark gills if you want, but I don't mind them)
  • 2large russet potatoes, about 1 pound, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • salt


In a blender jar, combine the torn guajillo chiles, tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, oregano and 1 cup of the broth.  Blend as smooth as possible. (A food processor will work though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

In a large (4 quart) saucepan, heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium-high. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the top and pour in the chile mixture. Press the mixture through into the hot oil, then stir until it’s noticeably thicker, about 5 minutes.

Scoop the masa harina (or fresh masa) into a blender and add 1/3 cup fennel fronds.  Add 1 cup of the broth and blend thoroughly.  Add the herby broth into the cooked chile mixture along with another 1/3 cup fennel fronds.  Whisk until the sauce comes to a boil.  Add the remaining 3 cups of broth and simmer for 15 minutes to meld the flavors. Taste the mole and season with salt, usually a generous teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth. Keep the mole warm while you grill the vegetables.

Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb and discard them. Slice the fennel bulb lengthwise into ¼-inch slices (the root of the bulb should keep the slices intact) and set aside.

Heat a gas grill to medium, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash and about medium-hot. Brush or spray the fennel, mushrooms and potatoes on all sides with the remaining oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Lay the vegetables on the grill, cover and cook, turning every few minutes, until they are tender and richly striped with grill marks (but not charred), 15 to 20 minutes total. Slice the portobellos into ¼-inch thick strips.

Divide the mole among 4 shallow bowls and arrange the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with a few chopped fennel fronds if you reserved any, and serve to vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

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