Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCAEveryone has a favorite dish. Maybe it's something that brings back memories of childhood. It could be "that one dish" your grandma (or mom or dad) made that every time we smell, eat, or even think of it, we have a feeling of comfort.

A favorite food could also be something that brings back memories of a favorite trip taken or place you used to live. The smells or flavors take you back to that region and place; the senses spark a flooding of memories. The way our senses are attached to memories is quite interesting, but it's not the topic I wanted to share with you.

I wanted to talk about was one of my personal favorite foods. It is special to me out of respect for the dish itself and the amount of preparation and ingredients that go into making it correctly. This dish is one that can be duplicated in a recipe. Each cook has to feel for themselves how much to add of each spice, when to add them, and how long everything should cook. No single recipe is the same, which is why whenever I see one on the menu I have try it. When done correctly, it is one of the most flavorful and beautiful foods one could imagine. I am referring to Mole (pronounced moh-ley).

moleMole is a thickened chile sauce deriving from the central to southern region of Mexico. The sauce is a delicate balance of spice, savory, sour, sweetness and richness. Chiles, nuts, fruits or sugars, spices, and a sour element (often tomatillos), are some of the ingredients that go into making this fantastic sauce.

Moles from the Oaxaca region can contain over 40 different ingredients, taking days of preparation, roasting, and grinding to prepare. There is a misconception that Mole is a chocolate sauce... this is not the case. Not all Moles contain Chocolate. Those that do contain chocolate use just enough to balance the chile and compliment the spices contained in the sauce. If you have ever tried a little bit of ground chile in your hot chocolate, you know how that little bit of spice can reversely compliment the sweetness.

moleMole is often prepared at celebrations in Mexico, such as weddings and family gatherings. It is often a group effort to roast and prepare the chile and spice paste that has to be ground fine. When people come together in spirit of camaraderie and friendship and start to cook, great things tend to happen. Supposedly this is how Mole was created to begin with.

According to, the legend of Mole goes something like this: In the "16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chilies together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients.

This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant mole sauce we know today. To serve in the mole, they killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it. The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face." Food inspired by angels... it has to be good!

moleCome try some Chicken Mole this week at Tobey-Kendel Dining Room at Lunch on Wednesday, April 27th at our Que Pasa station... and be inspired yourself.

Don’t forget to look at the weekly menus on the Dining Services website often to find out what other fabulous menu items await you this week!

Happy Dining!
Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
(Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)

Want to know what's being served in the dining rooms? Call the FoodLine (970.351.FOOD) for daily menus or look at our weekly menus online. Not signed up for the Faculty/Staff Payroll Deduction program yet? Learn more about the program here.