Adapted from Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca by Susana Trilling (Ballantine Books, 1999). Copyright 1999 by Susana Trilling.
I learned to make this flavorful combination of chiles and spices from my friend and teacher Carlota Santos. She has a little restaurant in her home where my husband Eric used to eat quite often before I came to live in Oaxaca. She always joked that she lost her best customer when I started to cook here, but gained a friend in me when she taught me the dishes she knew he liked to eat! I spent hours in her kitchen learning about this mole and the tamales and enchiladas you can make with the leftovers.
In a heavy 7-quart stockpot, heat 6 quarts water and the seasoning ingredients to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the chicken for about 35 to 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and the juices run clear when the dark meat is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken, strain, and reserve the stock.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. On a 10-inch dry comal, griddle, or in a cast-iron frying pan over low heat, toast the chiles on both sides for about 10 minutes, toasting the chiles anchos a bit slower and longer than the chiles guajillos because of their thicker skins. Toast them on both sides until their skins start to blister and they give off their aroma. Remove the chiles from the comal or pan, place them in a medium bowl, and cover with the hot water. Soak the chiles for 20 minutes, turning to soften them. Puree in a blender, using as little of the chile water as possible, about 1 cup. Pass the puree through a sieve or food mill to remove the skins.
On the comal, toast the peppercorns, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon stick. Quickly grill the garlic and onion, turning them often until they become translucent. Cool them, then puree the spices, onion, and garlic in a blender with ½ cup of the reserved stock. Set aside.
In an 8-inch cast-iron frying pan over medium heat, cook tomato pieces and marjoram or oregano with no oil until condensed, 10 to 15 minutes. First they will give off their juices, then they will dry out. Puree the tomato mixture in a blender then pass the mixture through a sieve or food mill.
In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and fry the plantain and bread slices until brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from the pan. Add more oil (if needed) and fry the raisins until they are plump, about 3 minutes. Remove them from the pan. Fry the almonds until light brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan. Place the plantain, bolillo, raisins, and almonds in a blender with 1-1/2 cups of the reserved broth and blend until smooth. Wipe out the frying pan and put over low heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and the sesame seeds and fry until brown, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool the seeds and grind in a molcajete or spice grinder.
In a heavy 6-quart stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon of lard over high heat until smoking. Add the chile puree a little at a time, stirring constantly. It will splatter about a bit, but keep stirring. Lower heat to medium and after about 20 minutes, or when chile puree is thick, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, about 15 minutes, stirring to keep the mole from sticking or burning. Add the onion and ground spice mixture and stir well. Add the pureed plantain mixture and ground sesame seeds, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Add 4-1/2 to 5 cups of the reserved broth to thin the sauce, then add the chocolate, stirring constantly. When the chocolate dissolves, add the salt. Let it cook down for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The more time it has to cook, the better.
Return the chicken pieces to the broth and heat through. Add more broth to the mole if needed. The mole should be thick enough to just coat a spoon, no more. Place a piece of chicken on a serving plate and ladle a large spoonful of mole on top. It should completely cover the meat. Serve with corn tortillas.
Hint: You can use turkey or pork instead of chicken. If you want to make it less picante, use half the amount of chiles and the same amount of the other ingredients.
Raghavan Iyer is a bestselling cookbook author, culinary educator, spokesperson and consultant who specializes in Indian cuisine. In this installment of The Key 3, he shares the techniques behind three of his classic recipes: Smoky Yellow Split Peas, Sweet-scented Pilaf and Indian Slaw.