It’s funny—in the month and a half we spent in Oaxaca, we declared that we could live happily if we never, ever saw a tlayuda again. Now that we’ve been away for several months, we’ve actually been craving those tlayudas. Somehow it was easy to take the local incredible food for granted while we were there, but in hindsight, it’s impossible not to miss.
This dish is one of our Christmas dinner appetizers this year. It’s as warm and rich as the culture and food we encountered in Oaxaca, with the mole providing an incredible depth of flavor. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes brings out the warmth of the mole, while the cheese and cilantro add brightness.
Using mole paste lets you prepare these complex flavors in record time and create a dish that looks (and tastes) wonderful, but is actually super simple. This was perfect for our Christmas meal, since its simple preparation allowed time to focus on the other gazillion things involved in any big dinner party.
We were lucky enough to be able to bring back several bags of mole paste from Los Pacos in Oaxaca (with the surprise blessing of customs, who I expected to make us throw them away). I’ve been saving them for special occasions, and of course this qualifies!
If you don’t happen to have mole paste lying around, you may be able to find either the paste or prepared sauce at a well-stocked supermarket nearby. If you get paste (rather than sauce) be sure to prepare it according to package directions before using it in this dish.
Tip: I like to use white, purple, and orange sweet potatoes, as well as white and purple potatoes. This adds color and makes the dish more interesting to eat.
Mole Negro with Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Cotija, and Cilantro
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 3 medium potatoes
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup mole negro black mole sauce—not paste
- 2 ” by 1” piece of cotija
- cilantro for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cube and roast the potatoes and sweet potatoes:
- Peel and cut the potatoes and sweet potatoes into small dice. Toss with enough olive oil to generously coat, along with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the diced potatoes and sweet potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender and beginning to brown on some corners, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing once or twice partway through.
Heat the mole and prepare the garnishes:
- In a small pot (or in the microwave, if you want to cheat), gently warm the 1 cup of mole until it’s hot.
- As the mole heats, crumble the 2’’ by 1’’ piece of cotija and pluck the cilantro leaves from the stems.
Plate and serve:
- Pour 1/4 of the mole into the center of each of four plates, then tilt (or spin) each plate to spread the mole into an even circle.
- On each plate, arrange 1/4 of the roasted vegetables in a crescent shape around the edge of the mole. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the crumbled cotija and cilantro leaves.