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Oaxacan-Style Mole

8 ounces Ancho chiles, stems and tops removed
8 ounces Guajillo chiles, stems and tops removed
12 whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
2-inch piece Ceylon cinnamon, or substitute 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1/2 to 1 cup lard
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup walnut or pecan meats
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup pitted prunes, sliced
1 cup pitted dried apricots, sliced
1 to 1 1/2 cups sherry, heated
1 large, very ripe plantain
2 tablespoons butter or lard
1/2 head garlic (8 cloves), unpeeled
1 large onion, unpeeled
1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes (2 large, or 3 to 4 medium)
1/4 pound tomatillos
4 to 5 cups chicken stock, or as necessary
1 (3-ounce) tablet Mexican chocolate

Rinse chiles under cold running water, removing seeds. Heat a
griddle or cast-iron skillet over high heat until a drop of water
sizzles on contact. Briefly toast chiles, a few at a time, on
griddle, turning once or twice, until their aroma is released. Do
not let them scorch or the dish will be ruined! As chiles are
toasted, place in a large bowl or saucepan. Cover with boiling
water and let soak until softened, no more than 10 minutes, while
you prepare the spices. Drain and reserve. Rinse and dry the griddle,
which you will need later.

Heat a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add peppercorns
and cloves; toast, shaking pan and stirring constantly, until their
aroma is released, about 1 minute. Set aside in a small bowl.
Lightly toast cinnamon in the same pan for about 1 minute; add to
the peppercorns and cloves. Toast oregano in the same pan until
fragrant and add to the spices. Set aside while you prepare the
nuts. In a heavy medium skillet, heat 2 to 4 tablespoons of the
lard over medium heat until rippling. Add sesame seeds and saute,
stirring, just until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes; do not let them
darken. Remove to a medium-sized heat-proof bowl.

In the same pan, saute peanuts in the same manner, stirring, until
lightly browned, adding a little more lard. Add to the bowl with
sesame seeds. Saute the slivered almonds, then the pecans or
walnuts, by the same procedure, using a little more lard each time
and adding toasted nuts to the sesame and peanuts. Set aside. Place
raisins, prunes, and apricots in a bowl and pour hot sherry over
them. Set aside to soften Peel plantain and cut into 1/2-inch
slices. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter or lard
until very hot. Add plantain slices, and saute until golden on both
sides. Set aside. Heat griddle or cast-iron skillet over high heat
until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Place unpeeled garlic
and onion on griddle and roast, turning several times, until onion
is blackened on all sides and garlic is dark brown and somewhat
softened. Let cool slightly. Peel onion and garlic; coarsely chop
onion. Set aside. On same griddle roast the tomatoes, turning
several times until blackened on all sides. Place in a deep bowl
to catch the juices. Let cool slightly and peel. Place tomatillos
in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer
uncovered until the color changes, about 5 minutes. Drain and set

Now you are ready to puree the ingredients in sequence, working in
batches according to the capacity of your blender and adding chicken
stock as necessary to facilitate the blending. Place as many of
the drained chiles and toasted spices in a blender as it can
comfortably accommodate, with about 1 cup chicken stock. Process
until smoothly pureed, adding more stock if necessary. Repeat with
remaining chiles and spices. With a wooden spoon or pusher, force
the puree through a sieve into a bowl; discard whatever will not
go through. Scrape the puree into a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch
oven; rinse out blender to wash away any hard or fibrous bits.

Puree sesame seeds and nuts in several batches with just as much
chicken stock as necessary to help free the blades. Add to the
chile puree. Puree dried fruit and sherry along with sauteed plantain
in the same manner, adding a little stock if necessary. Add to the
saucepan with chile and nuts. Puree onion, garlic, tomatoes, and
tomatillos (they may not need added stock). Add to other purees in
saucepan. Coarsely chop the chocolate and add to pureed ingredients.

Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring often,
for 30 minutes. Serve with chicken (either cooked separately or
browned in a little hot lard and added to the sauce to finish
braising) and sauteed sliced plantains. (The mole is also good with
turkey). Can be stored tightly covered in refrigerator for 10 days
or indefinitely in freezer.

Yield: 3 quarts


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