JUSTIN WELSH: Food Muse — Olé Mole!

Manchamantel is one of the many types of Mole sauces. (France has Mother sauces, Mexico has Moles!) This sauce is one of my favorites because it’s neither too spicy nor too sweet. It really has a great balance of flavor that perks up all of your taste buds.

Before we get started, here is a little background. A Mole sauce is a combination of one or more chilies, tomatillos and/or tomatoes, fruits, nuts, garlic, herbs and spice. Some Moles have 20plus ingredients and about one to two pages of instruction.

A lot of detail can go into preparation of these sauces. While looking at a recipe, it might seem overwhelming. But after making most of them once, they can be done in a shorter amount of time, since you will have a better understanding. And the rewards of this dish are worth the effort.

To make Manchamantel the list of ingredients and amounts follow in a kettle or sauce pan, boil about 5 to 6 cups of water. Then grab some dried Ancho and Guajillo peppers. (Using disposable gloves is a good idea here because the oils from the chilies might leave a burning sensation on your fingers. If you touch your eyes, or any other body part, you may experience irritation for a day or so.) Break the stem and remove the seeds. You don’t need to get every last one because you eventually will strain the sauce, which will remove them anyway.

Heat a pan and add ¼ cup of the vegetable oil. Once the oil is nice and warm, add the peppers a few at a time and turn them every so often. You do not want the heat on too high, as this will burn the pepper. The object here is to let them puff up a little. After working through the batches, set all the peppers in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over the peppers until just covered. Let them rest for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Now, let’s work on the vegetables. Turn oven on to 425 degrees. Take your onions, tomatillos (with husks), tomatoes and garlic (still in its skin) and place on a roasting pan with a little of the vegetable oil rubbed over them. Place into oven and let cook until all the vegetables begin to turn a deep brown, turning every 5 minutes. Some may become a little dark, and that’s OK! I would roast them around 30 minutes, maybe longer depending on your oven.

HERE IS A TRICK FOR WARMING AN OVEN FASTER! Turn broiler on high for about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn off and set oven to desired temp (the oven  may be ready to cook already!).

Going back to the chilies, drain the water off and place them into a blender with about ½ cup of water. Blend on high until smooth. The paste should be nice and thick but not soupy. You may need to add a little more water, but only go 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. Once blended, grab a mesh strainer and force the peppers through with a wooden spoon into a bowl. All you should have left is the skin and a few seeds in your strainer. Set the bowl aside.

Clean out the blender, and if by this time your vegetables are roasted, remove the husks from the tomatillos and the skins from the garlic which is easily done with a pinch on one end and place into the blender along with any juices that may be in the pan. Puree until smooth.

Mix the pepper and vegetable puree together in the bowl.

A preference of mine is to puree the pineapple and apple in the sauce as well. This gives the sauce a bit of sweetness. Or you can simply add the cut fruits to the roasting pan when cooking the meats.

Now, it’s time for the spices and herbs. Toast the canella, the fragrant cinnamon-like inner bark of a West Indian tree, peppercorns and achiote (a spicy seed from the Yucatan area of Mexico) in a pan until fragrant. Then add the cumin seeds. Once they have cooled, about 5 minutes, add them to a mortar and pestle or a spice blender along with the oregano and thyme and grind thoroughly. Add to the vegetable and pepper mixture. Place in a pan and cook on warm for 15 minutes to blend all the flavors together.

Were are almost to the finish line. (If you are feeling stressed, grab some cerveza!)

Now, grab a pan and add the rest of the vegetable oil and place on mediumhigh heat. Once the pan is up to temp, add your pork ribs and chicken and brown on all sides. Work in batches as to not crowd the pan, resulting in a golden brown crust. Place meat in a roasting pan and set oven temp to 350. Cover the meats with a generous helping of the mole sauce, cover and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours, just until the ribs are nice and tender.

Remove from oven, serve with some cilantro, refried beans, corn on the cob and another cerveza and enjoy the deliciousness of a homecooked authentic Mexican Mole!

Also take note, Mole didn’t get the name “tablecloth-stainer” for nothing! A bib might be the way to go or a long neck reach over a plate!

4 large Ancho chilies
10 Guajillo chilies
2/3 cup vegetable
10 garlic cloves unpeeled
2 medium onions chopped
4 red tomatoes
10 tomatillos with husks
6 sprigs thyme or 1 t
easpoon, dried
5 sprigs oregano or 1 tsp dried
1-inch piece of canella
2 t
ablespoons anchiote, or 1 cayenne pepper, seeded
½ tablespoons cumin
15 black peppercorns
4 leg/thigh chicken pieces, salted and peppered
1 rack pork baby back ribs, salted and peppered
1 pineapple, cut into chunks
2 red or green apples, cut into chunks

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