I made mole! (Se muele, se muele….)

Finished pollo en mole with warm tortillas de maiz.
Finished pollo en mole with warm tortillas de maiz.

Over the past few years (i.e., college and beyond), I didn’t do much cooking. It was always too much of a hassle, and I would much rather write an essay than clean up a kitchen full of dishes. So I generally opted for super-easy things like rice or tofu. And snacky stuff.

Clearly, that wasn’t the healthiest or best thing for me to do. I’d always enjoyed baking, but the whole cooking thing…well…I could cook, I just generally chose to not. But when I did, it was all about my signature dishes like pad Thai and bento.

Anyway, so recently I’ve found that I’ve got a lot more time on my hands, and I [begrudgingly] took up cooking again. So far, I’ve made an incredible curried chicken skewers with coconut rice and peanut dipping sauce, tequila chicken, homemade chocolate pudding. But today I tried my hand at my MOST FAVORITE MEXICAN DISH EVER. Mole. OF COURSE.

Like gnocchi at Italian restaurants, mole is my “test” dish when trying new Mexican restaurants. The elusive sauce is peddled as a rich chocolate sauce (even though chocolate is not the main ingredient, and definitely not the one that gives mole its dark brown color), and apparently there are numberless variations in Puebla and Oaxaca, the Mexican states of its origin. One of my friends recommend that I try making the legendary stuff after an especially bad experience at a restaurant that basically sold chicken covered in Skippy peanut butter and called it mole.

My kitchen table was literally covered in all the crazy mole ingredients.
My kitchen table was literally covered in all the crazy mole ingredients.

Anyway, so knowing that this was clearly going to be an all-day event (which it definitely was), I went shopping late last week for all the strange ingredients. And there are like 30 ingredients! Actually, if you do a search online, it’s really hard to find a truly authentic recipe. A lot of them call for only a few ingredients and lots of peanut butter and cocoa powder. The best one I found was definitiely this one from Epicurious. I’d made mole once before, a few years ago when I was in Mexico, and this recipe had all the ingredients I remembered (like plantains, dried chiles, and sesame seeds), unlike several other recipes that had one but not the other.

The ingredients included LOTS of things like tomatillos (which I almost couldn’t find), tomatoes, lots and lots of dried chiles (for spice AND color), almonds, peanuts, pecans, sesame seeds, plantains, onions, garlic, raisins, bread, tortillas, about eight different spices, Mexican chocolate, piloncillo, and chicken broth.

Although the recipe itself seemed daunting simply in its length (it printed out to be three FULL pages, with more than a page being simply a list of ingredients).

Simmering tomatillo and tomato mixture, and cooling plantains.
Simmering tomatillo and tomato mixture, and cooling plantains.

Yes, it took a solid three or three-and-a-half hours to make, start-to-finish, but it wasn’t because the recipe was difficult, rather than a lot of simmering and sauteeing and frying and blending and sivving.

Halfway through, the mole started looking like mole, but had a rather bitter flavor from the rehydrated chiles and the tomatillos. However, once the chocolate and the piloncillo were added, it started shaping up nicely.

It’s amazing how these truly random ingredients come together to form something really spectacular and tasty. Granted, mole really is an acquired taste, and it makes a heavy meal, and one of my good friends absolutely cannot stand the stuff, even though he loves Mexican food. But I will say, my dinner guests did enjoy the meal, despite the fact that they’d often tried mole that I’d ordered at restaurants and were not impressed. And I threw in some sliced chicken breast, and simmered the entire concoction for a few hours, and it was so tender and delicious! Definitely a hit.

Perhaps there’s something to be said for food that’s made from the heart?

The recipe I used made MORE than enough for dinner for four people, and I now have a few containers of it in the freezer to thaw for later (hopefully that’ll work). I can’t say I’ll make it again super-duper soon, but I’m very glad I had the experience, and can now say I have indeed made mole. I know I will make it again, though, I just can’t be too lazy. The worst part was definitely cleaning the dishes! Yipe!

Here is some final food for thought: Lila Downs, a crazy yet STUNNING Oaxacan singer, even has her own li’l song about some molito. 🙂

PS: For all you homies who don’t speak Spanish, here are the lyrics to the English version of the song:

They say in Oaxaca
You drink coffee with mezcal
They say herb is plenty
To chase away evil eye
I like to try the mole
That Soledad is goin’ to grind

O my darlin’ Soledad
She’s gonna cook a molito
By the skies of Montealban
At night I’m dreaming to see you

You first need to get the peanuts
You get the salt and the bread
You grind and you fry the chilies
You try the chocolate

Get cinnamon and banana
Get cloves and oregano
Get thyme and the blackest pepper
You grind the chocolate
You grind it–

They say in Oaxaca
Hot water with chocolate
They say at the fiesta
The burning of lights will tell
What is your kind of promise
For Soledad what kind of spell

Advertisements

You tell me

David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand performs.
David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand performs.

Is it normal for people to scream really, really weird stuff at shows?

You see, a few weeks ago when I saw Woven Hand at the Doug Fir in Portland, someone–in the lulling silence between songs–said (not shouted, just said) “This band is the shit,” and then everyone echoed in agreement. It was such an intimate venue that no one needed to shout to make themselves heard, but I thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Then, when I was in Tucson, my friend and I went to see Woven Hand at Club Congress (yes, two Woven Hand shows within five days….), and during the silence, someone sounded like they were spasming, shouting, “So good! So good! How are you so good?” It was so hilarious that for the rest of the trip, we were randomly shouting “SO GOOD” or “THIS BAND IS THE SHIT” to each other.

I really am curious, though. Because I’ve been to my fair share of shows, but none that elicits such weird reactions. And we’re not just talking about the shouting. There were people being religious with their hands raised. There were the crazy dancers with band shirts. And to the right of me was an older woman doing some mystic dance moves.

Granted, I think that actually seeing this band in concert is a trip:

David Eugene Edwards, the singer/songwriter/creator/person, has his eyes shut for pretty much the entire set (and at Club Congress, I was SO close to him, I felt victimized by all the sweat and spit…yes, SPIT…I went away with), and his leg will do random spazes (yet land oh-so delicately on the synth peddles). And he speaks in tongues. And blesses his crowd.

It really is a sight to be seen.

So, what do you think? Do you think there are just crazies wherever you see live music, or do you think that people are just so moved by this particular band that they feel so inclined as to shout random phrases?

Meet and greet!

Chris (bassist) and Doug (singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar). Photo courtesy of El Con.
Chris (bassist) and Doug (singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar). Photo courtesy of El Con.

If you’re in Tucson today, come and meet me and my El Con friends at Old Town Artisans tonight at 7 p.m. They’ll be playing in the bar until 9 p.m., and you can bet I’ll be there either sipping on mezcal or snapping photos.

See you there!

Neko Case just keeps on getting more awesome

Case's new album, Middle Cyclone, is out March 3, 2009.
Case's new album, Middle Cyclone, is out March 3, 2009.

You might think this is silly, but a lot of music makes me all sentimental. OK Go reminds me of the excellent show I went to, and how cool the band was afterward. Amos Lee makes me pissed off (don’t ask). And then there’s a whole group of music that I didn’t even know about a few years ago that now comprises most of what I listen to–Calexico, Neko Case, 16 Horsepower, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Friends of Dean Martinez, Califone (I actually don’t even remember what I listened to prior to this time…a lot of Coldplay, I suppose. And My Chemical Romance.)–and these remind me of mellow times on the US-Mexico border. I like remembering that!

Anyhoo, when I heard my beloved Neko was coming out with a new album (Middle Cyclone, out March 3), I obviously became rather excited! And the first single from the album, “People Got a Lot of Nerve,” is a clearly delicious number with her lush vocals taking front-and-center. It’s definitely a song you can bop your head to (slightly), and I can see myself singing along in a few more listens. And, surprisingly, her repetitious line “I’m a man eater,” isn’t nearly as awkward and outrageous as Nelly Furtado’s song (I’m sorry, but every time I heard that song, I wanted to hurt myself).

What’s more, for all those in the blog-o-sphere, every time someone blogs about it (and it’s available for free download here), Neko Case and lable ANTI- will donate $5 to the Best Friends Animal Society, an animal-rescue foundation. Don’t want to blog? You can help out by adding the song to your iLike. For every add, she will donate $1 to the same cause.

So, yes, it’s slightly gimmicky, but it’s going toward a good cause, so I think it’s endearing. Oh, Neko! You rule!

Find more information on the original MySpace blog.

Thanks to Kim for turning this on to me.

This post has no photos

I have declared that this post, about the Woven Hand show I just got back from, will have no photos.

You may ask yourself, and curse the heavens, WHY? Why, Danielle, must you not include photos? And the answer to that would be a simple one, of course: I don’t take photos at concerts unless I’m commissioned by the band.

Several years ago, when I first started going to shows, I took my camera with. But then I found myself preoccupied with taking photos and video, that I didn’t actually get to step back and enjoy the show. So I stopped, and I actually can be absorbed by the music. Very nice! (Also worth noting is that I truly believe that it’s totally disrespectful to the band to weasel your way up front only to use flash photography.)

The show tonight was at the Doug Fir, which has quickly become my new favorite venue (acoustics rock and I like that it’s very intimate). And I was actually surprised by the bands live listen-ability, considering that I listen to Woven Hand’s albums when I’m ready to zone out.

Have you heard of 16 Horsepower? Although now defunct, the two bands share the same frontman, David Eugene Edwards who, with a bandanna and everything, reminded my friend of Bret Michaels, only much better looking, and slightly crazy when speaking in tongues.

Anyhoozles, both of the bands are a rock-country-Gothic American-gospel infusion (really, it’s possible), the content of which explores the darker side of God and Christianity, in a sort of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God way. Which makes it appealing to the non-religious folk like myself and my two buds accompanying me to the show.

Edwards quaked and shouted and blessed us with his words, and it was really a very intense yet satisfying set…and was nothing like I’d ever seen before. And at the end, he actually told us “God bless you,” which both took me off guard and made me surprisingly happy.

I could have done without the annoying concert-going scenesters getting all up in by biz, gyrating and dancing all over me, but I suppose–especially in Portland–that it comes with the territory.

What sayest thou?

El Con's logo
El Con's logo

So, I’ve been torn over the past few months. I designed a super-basic site for my friends over at El Con, but it seemed a little too lackluster, and definitely NOT user-friendly for the band members who wanted desperately to update it.

Recently, they threw out the idea of a blog. I did an overly dramatic GASP, and then told them, “Okay, I’ll see what I can do.” Well, I conveniently put it on the back burner until I was having some coffee with the lead singer/songwriter this morning. So, begrudgingly, I decided to look into adding a WordPress blog.

My first reaction, when I was thinking about this ages ago, was to basically do what I did with this blog and my own website–add a “blog” link if people wanted to see it. But then it seemed almost too complicated, because I wanted, literally, to embed a blog into one page on a site. Meh. So I decided that it might be best to redo the entire site in WordPress, so it’d all be easily editable, and wouldn’t be much complaining.

Thing is–I have no idea how to host your own WordPress blog, and my HTML/PHP/MySQL knowledge is EXTREMELY limited. Luckily, the installation was mighty easy using Fantastico on the Siteground server. So I got it up and running, and, because I thought it would be too complicated making a completely customized skin (which I think it is at this point), I stumbled through changing the pre-made skin and adding a custom header.

And right now, in my opinion, I’m almost offended by how much better it looks, and how it took me literally 15 minutes to get it sort of up to speed.

I’m having issues adding sidebar widgets, and perhaps that comes with the territory, but I wanted to open it up for comments and suggestions. You can see the “new” site here, although it’s not technically live to the public. Is there anything you would add immediately? Do you think it’s okay to use a pre-made skin? Do you think the skin melds okay with the old site?

P&P Thursday: Sufjan Stevens

Poetry! It comes in so many different forms. And this week I’m inspired by the weather. So instead of a formal poem, I’ve decided to share with you the lyrics of one of my favorite year-’round Christmas songs. Now, before you get all up in arms, it’s by Sufjan Stevens, who not only is my love, but also just has a way with words. It’s pretty much almost not a Christmas song. And if you don’t believe me, listen to it here.

Enjoy!

xoxo, me

Rusted WindchimeSister Winter

by Sufjan Stevens

Oh my friends I’ve
Begun to worry right
Where I should be grateful
I should be satisfied

Oh my heart I
Would clap and dance in place
With my friends I have so
Much pleasure to embrace

But my heart is
Returned to sister winter
But my heart is
As cold as ice

Oh my thoughts I
Return to summertime
When I kissed your ankle
I kissed you through the night

All my gifts I gave everything you
Your strange imagination
You threw it all away

Now my heart is
Returned to sister winter
Now my heart is
As cold as ice

All my friends, I’ve
Returned to sister winter
All my friends, I
Apologise, apologise

All my friends, I’ve
Returned to sister winter
All my friends, I
Apologise, apologise

All my friends, I’ve
Returned to sister winter
All my friends, I
Apologise, apologise

La la la la la . . .

And my friends, I’ve
Returned to wish you all the best
And my friends, I’ve
Returned to wish you all the best
And my friends, I’ve
Returned to wish you all the best
And my friends, I’ve
Returned to wish you a happy Christmas

To wish you a happy Christmas