S cientists discovered ancient plates in the Yucatan peninsula with traces of chocolate, a sign that Mayans living 2,500 years ago used cocoa for more than beverages as many archaeologists previously thought.
As I read a report on the findings by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, I was fascinated to learn that Mexican dishes I enjoy, such as mole — a chocolate-based sauce served with meat — have ancient roots.
Mole takes a long time to prepare, but it's worth the effort. The ancient Mayans must have known they discovered a good thing.
Slow roasted pork in mole sauce
3 pounds uncooked lean pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon paprika, Spanish-variety
1 teaspoon table salt
3 poblano chiles, seeded, deveined, sliced, divided
2 onions, thinly sliced, divided
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1½ tablespoons cumin
½ cup cilantro, fresh, minced, divided
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
½ cup raisins
3 tablespoons peanut butter
Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Rinse and dry pork tenderloin; rub all over with paprika and salt. Coat a large, heavy, oven-proof pot with cooking spray; set over high heat. Place seasoned pork in pot and sear on each side, about 30 seconds.
Remove pot from stove and nestle 1 whole sliced pepper and 1 whole sliced onion under pork; add water to pot and cover tightly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes; reduce oven to 200ºF and continue to cook for 2 hours. When pork has cooked for 1½ hours, start mole sauce.
To make mole sauce, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add garlic and chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Sauté until garlic starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add remaining onion and pepper slices; sauté until onion starts to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in cumin, ¼ cup cilantro and cocoa; mix well until everything is incorporated. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
When the pork's cooking time is up, remove pot from oven but leave oven on. Remove pork to a cutting board; remove vegetables and juices and add those to mole sauce with raisins and peanut butter. Mix sauce well and simmer for about 5 minutes. Working in small batches, puree mole sauce in a blender until smooth. Next, thinly slice pork and return to pot. Cover pork with sauce and cook for 1 hour. Remove from oven and serve, garnished with ¼ cup cilantro.
Serves: 16, yields 1 cup meat and sauce per serving.
Contact News/Design Editor M. Clare Haefner at email@example.com or (254) 501-7551.