BRIDGEPORT — Asked to divulge his molé recipe, Nana Organic executive chef Ricardo Pineda paused to think about what goes into the 13-ingredient sauce.
"Oh my," he said. "Here we go."
The sauce, prepared in the traditional style of his Mexican hometown near Puebla, contains pasilla peppers, fried bread and tortillas, peanuts, tomatoes, sugar, onions, garlic, tomatillos, cumin, thyme, dark chocolate and chicken stock.
The end result is a deliciously rich, thick-but-silky sauce that’ll be part of Nana’s “Holy Molé” dinner event taking place Sunday, which is Cinco de Mayo.
For $18.62 — a nod to the year a small band of Mexican fighters defeated the much bigger French forces occupying Mexico — diners will get a starter salad of shaved jicama slices served atop orange beets, a main course of chicken molé with cilantro rice, a dessert of the Mexican bread pudding capriotada and a choice of 5 Rabbit beers.
The dinner is a diversion from the Nana’s regular Sunday family-style fried chicken supper, but it’s also a pivot point for the restaurant.
"I'm trying to bring more recipes here from back home,” said Pineda, 32, of Bucktown, a Mexican immigrant who started his career cleaning the job site for what would become the high-end MK. (He'd later be promoted to dishwasher, then salad station preparer, before becoming a line cook at an Italian place in Winnetka. He took a job as line cook at Nana in 2009 by answering an online ad.)
Now, he and co-owner Omar Solis will tweak the menu to include more Latin-inspired dishes — empanadas, pork belly tacos and pork tostones have all been on special recently — but the switch may sometimes run counter to Solis’ philosophy of prioritizing local produce.
After all, it's not like jicama and plantains grow in the Midwest.
Solis, 35, the Bridgeport native who opened Nana in 2009 with the help of his brother Christian, said cooking Mexican and South American dishes in Chicago will be a "balancing act," but that Nana won’t compromise on quality organic ingredients.
"I couldn't go back [to conventionally raised produce.] How could we? Maybe another place can do that, but not here on our corner," he said.