You see, it’s the authentic black chocolate that Ferranti imports from Oaxaca, Mexico that reportedly makes a difference in his local eatery’s business. Without that chocolate, there’s no Oaxacan mole; and without his mole, protests would surely erupt.
“Our mole dishes have always been among our top sellers at the restaurant, and I think our guests have found them to be unique because of the many different flavors that our mole brings together,” said Ferranti, general manager of El Cisne, 4717 E. Sunrise Drive.
It may be convenient to cut corners in making your garden variety mole, a traditional Mexican sauce made from chocolate, chiles, and nuts, but Ferranti suggests that using store-bought baking chocolate is a disservice to the culture and traditions of the mole motherland of Oaxaca.
“Oaxaca is a jungle region in Southern Mexico, with lots of dark forests, and their cuisine is built on deep, dark, earthy flavors,” he said. “The Oaxacan dark black chocolate is not sweet like other chocolates; it’s a little bitter and a little flaky, and if you’re making a traditional mole, it’s the only chocolate to use.”
Ferranti admits that his mole is a complicated undertaking, a sauce that’s made from 22 different ingredients, requiring close to eight hours of stewing to render the ideal flavor and consistency.
He begins by roasting guajillo, pasilla, arbol, ancho, and morrenita chiles, slowly integrating them with the 17 remaining ingredients that include raisins, cinnamon, plantains, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and a host of herbs and spices, to produce his velvety mole.
“With all these chiles, you might think that the mole would be spicy, but when the capsicum in the peppers cooks out, you’re left with the native and earthy flavors of the chiles balanced with the savory flavors from the Oaxacan black chocolate,” he said.
The mole at El Cisne is showcased on two dishes, the Breast of Chicken in Mole Oaxaqueno, and the Cecina en Mole which is anchored by two pork tenderloin medallions. While patrons may find that the mole has practical applications across the other Mexican regions represented on the menu, such as Sonora and the Western Coast, it’s home is clearly on the menu’s Oaxacan Tropical Southern page.
When pairing the mole with a regional spirit, you may think that a rich and full-bodied anejo tequila would get the nod. But Ferranti submits that when you’re in Oaxaca, you should do as the Oaxacans do.
“In Oaxaca, it’s all about mezcal, and I like oak-aged mezcals in the way that the wood from the barrel and the smokiness from the mezcal work together,” he said. “It’s a great combination between the mole’s fusion of chile and chocolate and the woodsy smoke in the agave.”
Though El Cisne maintains an impressive list of mezcals, the Mezcal Murcielago gets Ferranti’s vote for maximizing the mole experience. This is reportedly where food and beverage flavors integrate in such a way that you’ll be immediately inspired to book a flight into Xoxocotlan International Airport.
The next time you’re thinking about mole, move beyond your idea of chopping some Planters peanuts and sprinkling them with cayenne pepper over a pan of simmering Hershey’s syrup. That may be how mole is made in Minnesota, but mole is a Oaxacan thing, and El Cisne’s stands as a symbol of Southern Mexico.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.