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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mole de Olla—Beef Stew in a Pot

New information (December 2015):

A couple of years after posting this recipe, I watched an episode of Pati Jinich's PBS cooking show ( and I was excited to see her explaining how she makes Mole de Olla. For years I assumed this was not an authentic Mexican dish since I couldn't find it in any cookbook written by an expert. I'd originally discovered the recipe in the late 70s, in a "Mexican" cookbook, likely by Better Homes and Gardens. Since the 90s I have relied on books by Rick Bayless and, less frequently, Diana Kennedy, both Americans who made Mexican cookery the focus of their lives and careers. However, Pati Jinich was born and raised in Mexico City and she states that although this dish isn't a typical mole (the thick, spicy sauce flavored with chocolate), it is an old traditional recipe and there are many variations in Mexico. I feel slightly embarrassed I care so much about authenticity when what really matters is that this soupy stew is really tasty.

I cook this soup every summer when corn on the cob is at its best. I've also started freezing 1-inch pieces of corn so I can enjoy this in winter (the corn isn't quite as firm, but still flavorful). Don't be tempted to add corn cut off the cob. I feel certain that the cob adds flavor. Corn on the cob means this soup must be eaten with both a spoon and a fork (or fingers).


Mole de Olla—Beef Stew in a Pot

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 T cooking oil
3 c water
1/4 c snipped fresh parsley, or 1 T dried parsley
2 teas salt
1/8 teas pepper
1/2-1 teas crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 (16-oz) can tomatoes
1 medium onion, cut up
1 c water
2 T sesame seed
2 cloves garlic
1 teas instant beef bouillon granules
1/8 teas ground cumin
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, or chayote cut up (1 pound)
2 pounds small waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1 inch pieces
3 ears fresh corn, cut in 1-inch pieces (I often add more since we love it)

In large pot, brown meat, half at a time, in hot oil. Return all meat to pot. Add the 3 cups water, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover; simmer 1 1/2 hours or until the stew meat is tender. In blender container place undrained tomatoes,  crushed red pepper, onion, 1 c water, sesame seed, garlic, bouillon granules, and cumin; blend till nearly smooth. Add liquid to beef mixture along with potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add corn and replace lid. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are nearly cooked. Add squash for last 5 minutes of cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


If you can find it, substitute chayote squash for the zucchini. Its texture is more dense and holds up better but should be cooked longer--10 minutes or until done. Also, I find that waxy (often red) potatoes work better in soups than russets which tend to fall apart into mush if they are overcooked.

Pati Jinich's version is much the same as the recipe I offer here, although she doesn't include potatoes. She uses both zucchini and chayote--I think I'll chose one or the other. And she uses green beans, cut up. Pati also roasts whole tomatoes and tomatillos and garlic before blending them and toasts the sesame seeds until they start to pop. She puts a halved white onion in the cooking water for the meat. She also toasts and boils until tender some ancho chile pods then blends them to make a chile sauce to add to the broth. This results in final product that looks slightly thicker than my version. Go check hers out and try it. I'm going to do the same but I'm going to hang on to the potatoes.

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