Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche.
After taking a scenic Sunday drive from Fort Davis through Marfa to Presidio, we decided we needed to stop for lunch at El Patio… just blocks from the Mexican border.
We’ve eaten at El Patio before, and knew it would hit the spot to continue our Sunday cruise down to Terlingua and up through Alpine before heading back home to Fort Davis. The restaurant was packed when we arrived, with the one waiter and one waitress taking care of the entire restaurant. They were hustling and the teamwork was impressive.
The Friday buffet special looks pretty tasty… but alas, it was Sunday.
Presidio, on the border of Texas and Mexico and at the junction of the Rio Conchos and Rio Grande, was settled thousands of years ago by hunter-gatherers. By the year 1200, Native Americans were farming there, and fast-forward through lots of history to 1683 and that’s when Presidio came to be known as such.
Often times, if mole (pronounced “moh-lay”) is on the menu, my husband orders it. He’s eaten mole in Oaxaca Mexico numerous times. This particular visit to El Patio, he ordered the Enmoladas (mole sauce covering chicken enchiladas) plate and I had the green chicken enchiladas plate. The portions are large and the flour tortillas are homemade, with green and red sauces made fresh daily. No two moles are alike, from what I’ve tasted. El Patio’s mole is a little sweeter than we’re used to as we prefer more chile and less sweetness. Pictured below is his Enmoladas plate.
Mole is a Mexican specialty that has three Mexican states that claim they created it: Puebla, Oaxaca and Tlaxcala. Other regions are also known for their different types of mole sauce.
One legend of the creation of mole is from about 300 years ago in a poor convent in Puebla. The nuns prayed as they hurried to prepare for a visit from the archbishop, and killed one of their old turkeys. They cooked the old turkey with bits of chile peppers, spices, stale bread, nuts and chocolate, hoping to season the meat. Some stories say that the nuns accidentally knocked the chocolate and spices into the pot but had no time to fix it. The archbishop loved it. He asked the nuns what it was called, and one said, “I made a mole” – a Spanish pronunciation of the Aztec word molli or mulli.
Mole sauces usually have more than 20 ingredients with flavored from bittersweet to spicy,and the consistency can be thin or thick. They are typically brown and taste of chile peppers and chocolate.
I made homemade mole not too long ago, and it actually got two thumbs up from my toughest food critic. Mole is time consuming, but well-worth the effort.
5 Pasilla, Ancho or Guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-1/2 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet chocolate)
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 corn tortillas, torn to pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the mole sauce, soak the chiles in 1-1/4 cups water for 15 minutes. Drain well and discard the soaking liquid.
Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. In a blender, combine chiles, chocolate, chicken broth, peanut butter, sugar, oregano and tostadas and blend until very smooth. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Add to your favorite roasted chicken, use it in place of your favorite red or green enchilada sauce, enjoy it with mashed potatoes or rice.