Rick Bayless, author of Mexico One Plate at a Time, sums up the classic Mexican sauce in a little less than two pages. He says the mole, derived from the Aztec word for sauce, is the national dish of Mexico, as important as the Thanksgiving turkey is to Americans, but served more frequently. Unlike the American characterization of mole as a “chocolate sauce,” the chocolate is almost incidental. Mole (and he refers to it consistently as red mole) is essentially a red chile sauce with tomatillos that is thickened and enriched with nuts and seeds and augmented by various spices.

Bayless says traditional mole sauce has a long list of ingredients and the preparation is very involved. He offers a simplified version in his book, which, he says, stays true to the traditional flavors, but is manageable for the patient home cook (it does cover four full pages). Bayless says he’s seen mole served with everything from poultry and meat to vegetables and seafood. The classic Pavo in Mole Poblano, turkey in mole sauce, has been made for centuries.