Recipe: Smoky peanut mole (Encacahuetado)

Note: There were several recipes under consideration for this issue from New York chef Zarela Martinez, who wrote a cover story in March on Mexican sauces. The consensus choice was this Smoky Peanut Mole that Martinez got from Chicago chef Rick Bayless. Bayless serves the sauce over grilled quail, but it also goes well with everything from chicken and duck to pork, swordfish and grouper.

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours

2 (about 1 ounce total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

1/2 small white onion, sliced 2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 pound (about 1 medium to large round or 3 to 4 plum) tomatoes

1 cup dry roasted peanuts, plus few extra tablespoons chopped for garnish

2 slices firm white bread, torn into pieces

2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded

1/8 teaspoon allspice, preferred freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Mexican cinnamon (canela) or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 1/2 to 4 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup fruity red wine

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 bay leaves



* Tear ancho chiles into flat pieces, then toast few pieces at a time on ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat. Press chiles flat with spatula every few seconds until they crackle and change color slightly, then flip and press again. (If they give off more than a wisp of smoke, they are burning and will add bitter flavor to sauce.)

* Cover roasted chile pieces with hot water in small bowl and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain chiles and discard water.

* Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy, medium-size (4-quart) pot (preferably Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, then fry, stirring regularly, until well-browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape solids into blender container and set pan aside. Roast tomato on hot griddle until blackened and charred all over, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then peel over bowl to catch the juices.

* Add tomato, 1 cup peanuts, bread, chipotle chiles, drained ancho chiles, allspice and cinnamon to blender. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and blend until smooth, stirring and scraping down sides of blender jar and adding little more liquid if needed to keep everything moving through blender blades. Press mixture through medium-mesh sieve into bowl.

* Heat 1 tablespoon remaining oil in reserved pot over medium-high heat until rippling. Add pureed sauce all at once and cook, covered, until thickened and darkened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups remaining broth, wine, vinegar and bay leaves, then simmer gently, partially covered, over medium-low heat about 45 minutes, stirring often. Sauce should be consistency of cream soup; add more broth, a bit at a time, if needed.

* Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste (depending on saltiness of chicken broth). Add up to 1 tablespoon sugar if needed to cut any bitterness from chiles that may have been over-roasted.

3 cups. Each tablespoon: 34 calories; 140 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.35 gram fiber.