Mission Fig Mole Sauce

Time 4 ½ hours, largely unattended
Yields Makes about 8 cups
Mission Fig Mole Sauce
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
Simmered ingredients
Toasted ingredients
Fried ingredients

Prepare the simmered ingredients: Combine the bay leaves, canela, allspice, peppercorns, cloves, rosemary, thyme and chocolate with 2 ½ cups cold water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to melt the chocolate and prevent it from scorching, then remove from the heat and let steep until ready to use.


Meanwhile, prepare the toasted ingredients: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peanuts and toast, tossing continuously, until dark golden brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the pot. Repeat with the almonds, toasting for 1 to 2 minutes, then the sesame seeds, toasting for 1 to 2 minutes.


Spread the animal crackers in the skillet and toast, turning occasionally, until dark brown in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the pot, then wipe the skillet clean. Add the figs, turning occasionally, until softened and blistered in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the pot. Repeat with the raisins, stirring for 1 minute. Rinse out the skillet to remove any residual sugar and wipe dry.


Set the skillet over medium heat again and add the oil. When it shimmers, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan and add the negro chiles. Toast, turning often, until soft and paler in spots (don’t let them blacken), 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the pot. Repeat with the ancho, pasilla and árbol chiles, and keep the skillet on the stove.


Prepare the fried ingredients: Fill the skillet with the oil. Heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until very dark brown, about 15 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer to the pot. Add the garlic to the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until deep golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the slotted spoon.


Add the tortilla and fry, turning occasionally, until dark and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Use tongs to transfer to the pot. Repeat with the bread, frying until brown and crunchy like croutons, about 30 seconds. Add the salt to the pot after the bread goes in, along with 6 cups water and stir well to combine. Pour the frying oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup and reserve.


Puree the mole: Working in batches, transfer the mole mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. The spices and herbs may not break down completely, which is OK, because the sauce will be strained. Pour and push the puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much sauce as possible.


Fry the sauce: Pour the reserved strained canola oil into a large, deep stockpot and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully and quickly pour in the mole sauce at arm’s length to avoid burning yourself. Immediately turn off the heat and let stand until the bubbling subsides. The oil and sauce will splatter violently; the hard-fried flavor is an important element of the sauce.


Stir the sauce well and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often for the first 30 minutes, being careful to not let the mole scorch at the bottom of the pot. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings if needed. Continue simmering over low heat, stirring occasionally, for an additional 2 hours.


Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim off and discard any oil that has accumulated on the surface. Cool to warm for serving or to room temperature for storing. When ready to serve, thin the sauce with stock or water to a pourable consistency if needed. Fold in meat or vegetables.

Make Ahead:
The mole can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 2 months.

Genevieve Ko is the cooking editor for the Los Angeles Times. She is a cookbook author and has been a food writer, editor and recipe developer for national food media outlets. Ko graduated from Yale after a childhood in Monterey Park.
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