Mole Maker

In the central state of Puebla, every family has their own recipe for the iconic food, mole poblano — an earthy, spicy-sweet sauce of myriad ingredients (chiles and chocolate, nuts and seeds, aromatic vegetables and ripe fruits) whose elaborate preparation is a multiday ritual. Served over chicken, pork, or the traditional turkey, the thick, rich, brick-colored mole is the centerpiece at weddings, holidays, and other family gatherings. See The Pride of Puebla by Betsy Andrews »

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Santa Carrillo stirs a simmering cazuela of mole poblano, the rich, flavorful sauce of chiles, nuts, spices, chocolate, and other ingredients that is the iconic dish of Puebla, Mexico. Todd Coleman
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Luz Maria Leonor Gonzales dips a tortilla in her mole poblano to make a dish she calls envueltos, or wraps: mole-dipped tortillas rolled and topped with shredded chicken, sliced white onions, and more mole poblano. Todd Coleman
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Some of the ingredients for mole poblano (clockwise from top left): fried tortilla and bread, lard for frying the sauce, boiled chicken for dousing with sauce, fried plantains, chile seeds, and cinnamon and brown sugar Todd Coleman
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The women of the Tlapaltotoli Daniel family–Maria Gabriella Sandre de Tlapaltotoli, left; her sisters-in-law, from left, Maria del Refugio, Saray Tlapaltotoli Daniel, Angelica Tlapaltotoli Daniel, and her mother-in-law Juana Daniel Lopez–add pork ribs to their mole poblano, which will infuse the meat with its flavor. Todd Coleman
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Ana Elena Martinez, a chef and bakery owner in Puebla, Mexico, prepares ingredients for mole poblano, slicing a ripe plantain, which she will fry and puree to combine with other items for the sauce. Todd Coleman
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After two days of communal cooking, the women of the Tlapaltotoli Daniel family, natives of Cholula, a town near Puebla, sit down to the fruits of their labor: spicy, fruity bowls of mole poblano served over turkey, chicken, and pork ribs. Todd Coleman
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Maria del Refugio hands her mother, Juana Daniel Lopez, ingredients to fry as part of the preparation for mole poblano. Each woman has a specific job to do in the complex mole making process. Todd Coleman
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Mole poblano for about 40 Tlapaltotoli Daniel family members is cooked for many hours in an enormous cazuela set over a wood fire. The lipped clay platter in front of the cazuela is a comale, used to cook tortillas that are served alongside the mole. Todd Coleman