“Oh, hello!” (read with a British accent). This is what my little Hiro says every time we are playing cars on the traffic rug and his car approaches mine. I don’t know why I’m thinking about this other than it is ridiculously cute and the holidays always get me thinking about last year’s Christmas and how much my kids have grown. Last year Hiro was barely walking, let alone speaking in a British accent and Louisa still had a little baby fat left in her cheeks which by now is long gone.
Around the holidays I always make this real elaborate mole sauce that I discovered in Diana Kennedy’s first cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico. It is incredibly complex and rich with spice but takes hours to prepare (which is why I only make it once a year). If I ever am feeling ambitious I will post it one day to this here blog, but today is not that day.
I have yet felt festive enough to embark on such a project so I was thrilled when I came across this absolutely acceptable (I’m speaking for myself, not Diana Kennedy) and a much easier mole sauce from the lovely Pati Jinich.
The base for this deep, dark sauce is pureed pumpkin which fills in quite nicely as the sweet component for the more traditional chocolate. There is still plenty of heat from dried ancho chiles but it is subtle and nuanced. The toasted nuts and warm wintery spices round out the flavors which only improve the longer it sits so if you are with it enough to plan in advance, make the sauce on the weekend for a meal later in the week.
I won’t throw in the towel on the Ms. Kennedy’s spicy pork mole but I’m thrilled to have found an alternative I can make more than once a year.
Place the onion and garlic on a baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for 9-10 minutes, flipping once in between. Once they are soft and charred, remove from the heat.
Let garlic cool slightly, then peel.
Heat a cast iron skillet or comal over medium heat. When hot, add ancho chiles and toast for 3-4 minutes flipping frequently until all sides have darkened in color, but not burnt.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add toasted chiles. Remove from heat and soak chiles for 10-15 minutes or until soft.
Return the skillet to the heat and toast the cloves and allspice for about a minute or until fragrant. Transfer to a plate and add almonds and cinnamon and toast until golden and fragrant.
Place the onion, garlic, chiles, 1 cup of chile soaking liquid, almonds, cloves, cinnamon and allspice in the blender and purée until smooth.
In a deep frying pan or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Once shimmering add the chile mixture. It will bubble vigorously so be careful. Stir until it stops spitting then add the salt and sugar. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to help prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The color will darken considerably.
Add the pumpkin purée and chicken broth to the sauce. Stir well until the pumpkin has dissolved, it will have a silky consistency. Continue to cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally or if you have them time cook over very low heat, covered, for an hour.
Season with more salt if necessary and serve over grilled or broiled chicken, shrimp, or pork or even enchiladas, garnished with the toasted pumpkin seeds. You can also let cool then transfer to mason jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.