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 »

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
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
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 sugarTodd Coleman
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
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
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
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
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