Monday, April 23, 2012

Grilled Mole Marinated Steak Paired with 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Virginia Barbera

When developing a recipe or wine pairing, much of the fun for me is found in discovering an inspiration for the meal.  In other words, finding a theme, purpose or other cohesive thought for the meal.  In this case, the motivation comes from the soon arriving Cinco de Mayo.

According to Wikipedia, “Cinco de Mayo is celebrated nationwide in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla.  The date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico—which is actually celebrated on September 16.

Imagine my shock when I read this and found that it was not a celebration concocted by Corona and Jose Cuervo!  Regardless of origin, Cinco de Mayo was the inspiration for this meal and pairing.  Chef Sue and I started throwing around ideas which were quite opposed.  I focused on coastal foods dominated by a variety of seafood, while Chef Sue went directly to the interior.  In the end, Chef Sue exerted her Alpha dominance and I conceded knowing that a return to Mexican inspired seafood will not be far away.

Chef Sue’s creation featured a mole sauce as the heart of the meal.  I love mole and was pleased with her decision.  On top of that, she executed the mole perfectly.  In my mind, preparing an exceptional mole is all about balancing the heat from the chile with the chocolate.  If either is out of balance, I would judge it as inferior.  Chef Sue’s recipe strikes the perfect balance.

To accompany the mole marinated grilled steak, we prepared grilled corn basted with a spicy cream sauce, asparagus grilled in a pouch with lemon and olive oil, and new potatoes boiled then tossed in olive oil and simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  In combination, this entire meal is a very simple preparation featuring the natural flavors of fresh vegetables with Mexican inspired sauces bringing focus to our culinary celebration.

The pairing for this meal was a bit of a challenge.  With grilled steak and mole at center stage, selecting a full bodied red was the easy part.  My concern came when considering the piquance of the mole.  I decided to go with a fruit forward approach and hopes of the fruit flavors balancing the heat while echoing the chocolate component of the mole.

My wine selection was the 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Virginia Barbera.  In general, Barbera is an exceptionally food friendly wine with good acidity, low tannins, and flavors of raspberry, blackberry, cherry and vanilla notes depending on fruit yield and ripeness, oak treatment, and climate.
We found the 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Virginia Barbera an excellent example of a classic Barbera.  It was wonderful.  It was beyond wonderful - I was simply gushing over this wine.  Here are the tasting notes from the winemaker:

A full bodied red wine with intense raspberry, cherry and anise aromas and flavors. an overlay of vanilla precedes a direct and well rounded finish.  This wine is well structured and has good aging potential.

I would like to say more, but these notes directly reflect our experience.  The intense fruit flavors were well balanced and a true joy.  Although the winemaker suggests this wine has good aging potential, it is drinking exceptionally well now.  Go ahead and try to keep it in your cellar for a while - I dare you!

I was exceptionally pleased with the pairing...the balance was perfect.  However, as we discussed the pairing, Chef Sue commented that the wonderful fruit flavors in the wine could have stood up to a more aggressive approach to the mole.  In other words, Chef Sue thought the wine would have complemented the mole with even more piquance and deep chocolate flavor.  I can’t disagree, but I was nothing but smiles with each sip and morsel.



  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 ½ medium onions
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup sofrito (Latino soup base)
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 4 ancho chile peppers


  1. Halve the peppers and clear seeds.
  2. Peel and halve the onions.
  3. Halve the tomatoes.
  4. Place all vegetables on a sheet pan and place under the broiler until skin on the peppers begin to char.  Let the peppers cool and peel the skin.
  5. In a pot, add the chicken broth, sofrito, ancho peppers, salt and pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon hot chili pepper.  Bring to a boil.
  6. When the stems of the ancho peppers loosen from boiling, remove stems.
  7. Add broiled vegetables to the pot.  Continue to cook for 10 minutes on a low boil.
  8. Pour ingredients of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth.  Add ¼ cup of dark chocolate chips and blend to incorporate.  Adjust seasoning.
  9. Marinate steaks in mole for at least one hour (up to 4 is best).
  10. Reserve a cup of the mole for your dinner guests to use at the table.
Cream Sauce for Grilling Corn

  • ½ stick butter
  • ½ package of cream cheese
  • pinch of hot chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Microwave butter and cream cheese 30 seconds at a time, stir and repeat until you have a paste.  Incorporate chili power, with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place corn on grill and baste exposed side with the sauce.
  3. Flip corn and baste the other side.
  4. Continue to grill until corn just begins to char.  Serve immediately.
In vino veritas, buen provecho.


1 comment:

  1. The wine was a perfect compliment to the mole, each bringing out the special flavors that surely made this meal exceed any expectations I had.