Mole Rojo del Istmo

Zarela Martnez says the following recipe "is one of my favorites for easy preparation and versatile uses. Like all moles, it goes perfectly with pork or chicken and is a great sauce for enchiladas." It is made with dried chiles and several rather exotic ingredients available at speciality stores.

6 large pasilla or 4 large ancho chiles, tops and seeds removed

6 large unpeeled garlic cloves

1 large ripe tomato

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

1 1-inch canela (sometimes called "soft skin" or Ceylon cinnamon) if unavailable use stick cinnamon

8 black peppercorns

8 whole cloves, or 1/4 teaspoon ground

1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano, if possible)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock

3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

1 cup dried, white bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Rinse chiles and shake off excess moisture; do not dry them.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place chiles in skillet and cook (turning frequently) until moisture evaporates and aroma is released (about 30 to 45 seconds). Place chiles in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and let soak for at least 20 minutes.

Place garlic cloves in small dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, turning frequently until garlic is somewhat soft, (8 to 10 minutes); peel.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add tomato and onion; cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the vegetables. Save 1/2 cup of the liquid, let cool slightly, and place in a blender with the tomato, onion, and the roasted garlic. Process until thoroughly pured (about two minutes on high). With a wooden spoon force mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl; set aside.

Grind the canela (cinnamon), peppercorns, cloves, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves together in an electric coffee or spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Drain chiles. Place in the blender with chicken stock and process until smooth (about three minutes on high). With a wooden spoon force the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into the tomato pure.

In a heavy medium-size saucepan, heat the lard over medium heat until rippling. Add the ground spices and cook for two minutes, stirring. Stir in the tomato-chile mixture; cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the bread crumbs and salt and cook for two minutes. If sauce seems too pasty, add a little water. Add sugar; taste for seasoning; add more salt or sugar if desired.

Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups.

May be refrigerated for up to 6 days, or frozen for up to 6 months.

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