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Ol[acute{e}] mole!

Capturing the vibrant flavors of regional Mexican cuisine.

One of the fastest-growing consumer trends is the popularity of regional Hispanic cuisines. It's no longer a quick taco or burrito from a fast-food provider for today's well-traveled consumers, who have more sophisticated palates and want to savor exotic flavors.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Kraft Food Ingredients introduced the latest addition to its Cuisines of the World line at IFT 1999--Cuisine of Mexico-Puebla Style, a creative blend of ingredients and cooking styles indigenous to the Central Mexico region.

"When we were working on the development of a Mexican cuisine flavor, we wanted it to be authentic," says Lucien Vend[hat{o}]me, senior corporate executive chef.

"Some Americans have a misconception about Mexican cuisine, thinking it is one-dimensional. But it has finesse and is as complex and multi-layered as any European or Chinese cuisine," he says.

"The best moles in the world are made in the Mexican state of Puebla. Ancho chiles are ground and cooked down for two or three hours with lard. By that time, it has the consistency of a paste, which has a fire-roasted element," he explains.

"That's a complex thing to do in manufacturing, so usually chile powder, which has a raw flavor, is used, as opposed to the finished flavor you get with ancho. That was the flavor we wanted," says Vend[hat{o}]me.

"At the same time, we were not specifically making a mole flavor, but one instead with the complexities of authentic Mexican cuisine that would allow for customization with a few ingredients."

A versatile savory flavor, Puebla Style also can be used to develop products reminiscent of the Oaxaca/Southern Mexico region.

"If you just add a little chocolate and cinnamon, it can be used to develop characteristic mole flavor, but if you add garlic, it would become base for a Tinga flavor, or if you add lime, it becomes a flavor for a Veracruz-style sauce. The concept was to have the basic cooking elements," says Vend[hat{o}]me.

"We found that Cuisine of Mexico is at its best when it is made into a sauce or a meat marinade. Many of the dishes in Mexico are stews. In fact, in the large tourist hotels there, the stoves are only 24 inches high because the chefs cook food in big pots for long periods of time so the flavors can build up. The chefs can more easily watch as the food is stewed or braised on lower stoves."

As Vend[hat{o}]me points out, "The key here is authenticity. There is a difference between an original recipe and authentic recipe. An original recipe means grandmother, or abuelita, as she is called in Mexico, cooked it. Nobody can duplicate it because there is only one of her. What we can come up with are authentic flavors of certain components. When you think of Mexican cuisine, you have all those elements--cooking on the stove over long periods of time, authentic ingredients, and traditional cooking methods. We are able to capture all of those cooking components in one flavor."


The eyes have it

When it's time to package your product, it's good to remember that 60 percent of buying decisions are based on color, according to Lee Eiseman, director of Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and executive director of Pantone Color Institute.

"If it's the right one, color sells. Otherwise it's called inventory," she jokes. "Color is no longer about revolution, it's about evolution." The most popular color today is blue; in fact, it's the top color choice of 35 percent of the population. Popular shades this year include slate, cobalt, classic combos of blue and white, and periwinkle.

It's notable that the top color preference in Asia is also blue (but it's almost a navy hue), and blue is the top color in Europe as well. Eiseman predicts that next year we will see turquoise and a proliferation of cranberry and purple tones.

If you are targeting kids ages 3 to 6, the choice is orange, and tweens like what used to be referred to as avocado (mainly because their parents hate it).
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Author:Toops, Diane
Publication:Food Processing
Date:May 1, 2000
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