Mole Rojo (Red Oaxacan Sauce)

Travels around Mexico over the years introduced us to the wonderful world of mole. Moles are typically slightly thick, dried chili-based sauces. The term is also used for different dishes featuring the sauce. Regional varieties abound, as do individual recipes. Almost 2 years ago, I shared a recipe for Mole Poblano (also known as Mole Negro). It is a delicious seed- and nut-thickened mole made from dried ancho, pasilla and mulato chiles, sesame seeds, almonds, pecans, tomatoes, raisins for sweetening, allspice, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, onion and, for an added a depth of flavor, dark chocolate (or Mexican chocolate discs).  About a decade ago, a Mexican woman (whose name I cannot remember) showed me how to make her version of Oaxacan Mole Rojo. She served it generously poured over a poached chicken breast atop a bed a white rice. The printable, text-only recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Some ingredients might not be available at the local supermarket but can be found in many Latin markets or Hispanic grocery stores. Ingredients include dried ancho chilies, onion, garlic, a cinnamon stick, cloves (whole or powdered), allspice berries (whole or ground), dried epazote (optional but best to use it), thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns (or ground pepper), chicken stock, tomatoes and sugar. Tomatoes can be whole and peeled by cutting an X in the bottom then plunging them into hot water or use canned, drained, large dice tomatoes. Both work equally well. Epazote has a unique flavor and there is no good substitute but, I generally add some dried marjoram and oregano to make up for the flavor loss if it cannot be found.

To begin, place tomatoes and peeled, roughly chopped onion into a pan.

Simmer until the onion is soft.

Stem, seed and devein ancho chile peppers.

Tear chiles into large pieces.

Place, in a single layer, in a searing hot skillet.

Sear two minutes on each side in the smoking pan.  Be sure to turn the vent on or open a window.

Transfer the seared chilies to a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Place the spices and herbs in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder used only for this purpose). A mortar and pestle work well but require a bit of effort and determination.

Grind until reasonably smooth.

Place the tomato onion mixture, ground herbs and spices and the garlic into a blender canister.

Puree until smooth.

Strain and add the steeped chiles, reserving the liquid.

Puree until smooth.  Add sugar to adjust sweetness levels.

Add the chicken stock and some of the reserved chile water to thin the mixture. Not to worry if it is a bit runny since some of the liquid will be cooked off. Heat oil in a skillet and carefully pour the mole into the hot pan.

It will pop and sputter so stand back.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened.

Mole rojo can be served with a variety of meat and poultry. I usually do as I was originally taught, pour it over a poached chicken breast sitting atop a bed of white rice. To poach the chicken, place skinless breasts in a pan of barely simmering water. Onions and a bay leaf can be added, if desired. Cook using this gentle method until the breasts are cooked throughout.

Mole Rojo (Red)
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4 to 6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 large, dried ancho chilies
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled (or 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns or ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 whole cloves (or ½ teaspoon ground cloves)
  • 3 whole allspice berries (or ¼ teaspoon ground allspice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried epazote (add !/2 teaspoon each dried marjoram and oregano if not using epazote)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 3 Tbs. oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Place tomatoes and roughly chopped onion into a pan.
  2. Simmer over medium heat until the onion is soft.
  3. Stem, seed and devein the dried ancho chile peppers.
  4. Tear chiles into large pieces.
  5. Place, in a single layer, in a searing hot (preferably cast iron) skillet.
  6. Sear two minutes on each side in the smoking pan. Be sure to turn the vent on or open a window.
  7. Transfer the seared chilies to a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.
  8. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
  9. Place the spices and herbs in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder used only for this purpose).
  10. Grind until reasonably smooth.
  11. Place the tomato onion mixture, ground herbs and spices and the peeled garlic cloves into a blender canister or a food processor bowl.
  12. Puree until smooth.
  13. Strain and add the steeped chiles, reserving the liquid.
  14. Puree until smooth.
  15. Add sugar.
  16. Add the chicken stock and ½ to 1 cup of the reserved chile water to thin the mixture.
  17. Heat oil in a skillet and carefully pour the mole into the hot pan.
  18. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened. If too thick, add more of the reserved chili water, chicken stock or plain water until it reaches a desirable thickness.
  19. SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Mole rojo can be served with a variety of meat and poultry. I usually do as I was originally taught, generously poured over a poached chicken breast sitting atop a bed of white rice. It can also be tossed with cut-up pieces of meat or poultry. To poach the chicken, place skinless breasts in a pan of barely simmering water. Onions and a bay leaf can be added, if desired. Cook using this gentle method until the breasts are cooked through.

 

 

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