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Red Peanut Mole

Red Peanut Mole

Mole de Cacahuate con Pollo

In a medium-large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat over medium:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon drippings or fresh-rendered lard

When it’s hot, add:

  • 2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 5 or 6 flat pieces
  • ½ small white onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled

For 5 or 6 minutes, cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the onion and garlic have softened and browned and the chile is toasty-looking and aromatic. Then scrape it all into a blender jar (setting the pan aside unwashed). To the blender, add:

  • 2/3 of a 15-ounce can (1 cup) fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry- or oil-roasted peanuts
  • 2 slices firm white bread, roughly torn into pieces
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth

Blend until as smooth as possible—it’s ready when a drop of the puree rubbed between the fingers doesn’t feel gritty. Unless a powerful, high-speed blender is used, pass the mixture through a medium-mesh strainer to remove chile skins or anything that didn’t get thoroughly blended.

To cook the mole, return the pan to the heat, this time medium-high, and add:

  • 2 more tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon drippings or freshly rendered lard

When the fat is hot enough to make a drop of the sauce sizzle fiercely, add it all at once. When the puree hits the hot fat, it’s important to stir constantly for 7 or 8 minutes until it has reduced by two thirds its original volume and darkened to a thick, rusty-orange paste (about the consistency of tomato paste). This is the critical step that fuses these disparate flavors into a harmonious sauce. If you get more than a little spattering, lay a cookie sheet or splatter screen over most of the pot and stir from the side. Bayless’ implement of choice is a blunt-end wooden spatula that won’t conduct heat and will thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan.

To my cooked-down “mole paste,” stir in:

  • 2 more cups chicken broth

Then decide if you want the dish to tip toward the sweeter side that focuses on the flavor of the chiles and chocolate, or the savory side that focuses on the nuts.

For a sweeter mole, stir in:

  • ¼ cup (about 1 ½ ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate

For a more savory mole, whisk in:

  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (cider vinegar is good here)

Partially cover the pot, turn the heat to low and let it simmer, stirring occasionally—½ hour is good, but an hour is better; making the mole a day ahead and refrigerating produces the best flavor.

To season the sauce, start with:

  • Salt (it usually takes about 1 ½ teaspoons for the savory version, 2 ½ teaspoons for the sweeter one)

When you’ve tasted the sauce and feel it has the right amount of salt, season with:

  • Sugar (usually about 1/2 teaspoon for both)

Make sure the consistency resembles that of smooth bean soup, and if it is thicker than that, stir in a little more broth or water to make it right.

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