My sister in-law's mother, Petra, is a native Oaxacan and makes some of the most incredible molé I've ever had. Rich and velvety and layered with flavors upon flavors, it's like the culinary equivalent of gold. Every year she makes the trip from her home in Mexico to California to visit relatives and every year a brick of her prized molé makes the journey with her. That's right, she actually carries the brick onto the plane and travels with it tucked protectively into her carry-on baggage. Take note my friends because THAT is true dedication to one's culinary craft!
And every year Sarah and I beg and plead with my sister in-law to save just a sliver of that brick for our annual visit to California. On the occasion a sliver is saved, we savor it with the respect it deserves, musing at its complex notes. Then, a couple years ago, I the got the offer most chefs would kill for (and the offer I'd been not so subtly hinting at from my first bite of that molé) ... A cooking lesson with Petra herself and the chance to learn the secrets of traditional molé making! Score!
Hold your excitement, dear readers because the recipe I'm about to share isn't Petra's famed molè. Much to my chagrin, I've not actually made it to this cooking lesson yet. Shameful, I know. Frankly though, even if I did possess the coveted recipe, I'm not sure I could share it here. Chef-to-chef etiquette dictates that some secrets be left untold.
What I CAN offer is my own version of Perra's molè. It is a recipe cobbled together from years of sampling the real thing and guessing at its ingredients but a pretty good one all the same. Let me be very clear, I would never be so bold as to claim that this recipe is an authentic Oaxacan molé. It's not. And obviously pork ribs are a fairly untraditional vehicle for molé. No, traditional this isn't! Instead I will call this my ode to the 7 molés of Oaxaca. I think it most embodies the Negro and Rojo varietals but with the addition of fresh tomatilos and corn tortillas it also gives a nod to Molé Verde and Molé Chichilo.