November 1 and 2 is Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), where families come together to honor those they’ve lost in a joyous celebration. On this widely observed holiday, relatives gather around their ofrendas (alters) adorned with sugar skulls, flowers, candles and prepared foods their deceased loved ones enjoyed. The ancient, indigenous Mexicans believed their dearly missed spirits would visit those left behind to drink, feast and have fun together.
Typical Day of the Dead dishes often feature molé — an elaborate sauce with myriad variations that can present many challenges for chefs and home cooks alike.
Not to fret upsetting the spirits, this molé verde recipe from chef Joe Realmuto on the menu at Amagansett’s Coche Comedor is light and straightforward, made of fresh tomatillos, cilantro, serrano and garlic for optimal flavor.
With subtle tart notes from tomatillos, this green molé stands out due to its slightly coarse and nutty texture from the toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds. For a deeper, green hue, swap out locally grown spinach for the romaine.
Realmuto typically offers this sauce to accompany grilled corn at Coche (one of the main reasons Florence Fabricant included this recipe in an early fall menu of the Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook).
“Grilled local zucchini, yellow or chayote squash, bell peppers, eggplant and sweet onions will work well with the molé verde” suggests Fabricant in the book. “Another way to serve it with corn is to grill it, then cut the kernels off the cobs. Mix the kernels with the sauce, place in a casserole dish, top with the cotija cheese and bake it for 20 minutes at 325 degrees until the cheese melts.”
Are your guests craving something a bit heartier? Try it with shredded chicken and warm corn tortillas, the ideal accompaniment to soak up the velvety sauce.
Prepare the sauce beforehand to enjoy this day of commemoration with family and friends. We think the spirits will be happy too.
[Recipe reprinted from The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton by Florence Fabricant.]
Chef Joe Realmuto’s molé verde sauce
- 8 small tomatillos, husks removed
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 serrano chile, cored and seeded
- 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 3 leaves romaine lettuce, torn
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste