3 medium (5 ounces) tomatillos, husked and rinsed 1/2 cup ( 2 1/2 ounces) sesame seeds About 1/2 cup lard or vegetable oil, plus a little more if necessary 6 medium (3 ounces) dried mulato chiles, stemmed and seeded 3 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded 5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded 4 garlic cloves, peeled Scant 1/2 cup (2 ounces) almonds 1/2 cup (2 ounces) raisins Salt to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground anise seed (optional) Scant 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cloves 1 slice firm white bread, darkly toasted and broken into several pieces 1 ounce (about 1/3 of a 3.3-ounce tablet) Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped 4 to 5 tablespoons sugar 4 lbs. bone-in chicken breasts, or the same amount boneless turkey breast Sprigs of watercress or flat-leaf parsley, for garnishDirections 1. Set out all the ingredients. Spread the tomatillos on a baking sheet and roast them 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 or 5 minutes, until splotchy-black, blistered and soft. Set out 2 large bowls and scrape the tomatillos, juice and all, into one of them. Set out a pair of tongs and a slotted spoon. 2. In an ungreased, small skillet set over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly until golden, about 5 minutes. Scrape 2/3 of them in with the tomatillos; set the rest aside for garnish. 3. Set a large (8- to 9-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela) over medium heat. Measure the lard or oil into the pot. Turn on an exhaust fan or open a window or door. Tear the chiles into flat pieces and, when the lard or oil is hot, fry the chiles, three or four at a time, flipping them constantly with the tongs, until their interior sides have changed to a lighter color, about 20 to 30 seconds total frying time. Don't toast them so darkly that they begin to smoke-that will make the mole bitter. As they're done, remove them to the empty bowl, being careful to drain as much fat as possible back into the pot. Remove any stray chile seeds left in the fat. Cover the toasted chiles with hot tap water and submerge a plate over them to ensure even rehydration. Let stand about 30 minutes. 4. With the pot still on the heat, fry the garlic and almonds, stirring regularly until browned (the garlic should be soft, the almonds browned through), about 5 minutes. With the slotted spoon, remove them to the tomatillo bowl, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot. Now, add the raisins to the hot pot. Stir with your slotted spoon for 20 to 30 seconds, until they've puffed and browned slightly. Scoop them in with the tomatillos, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot. 5. Raise the temperature under the pot to medium-high. Sprinkle all sides of the turkey breast halves with salt, then lay one half in the pot. Thoroughly brown it on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove to a clean plate; brown the other half in the same way. Cover and refrigerate if not completing Steps 3 and 4 within an hour or so. Set the pot aside off the heat. 6. Use tongs to transfer the rehydrated chiles to a blender, leaving the soaking liquid behind. Taste the soaking liquid, and, if it is not bitter, measure 2 1/2 cups into the blender. If it is bitter, throw the soaking liquid away and measure in 2 1/2 cups water. Blend the chiles to a smooth purée, adding a little extra water if necessary to keep the mixture moving through the blades. Press the chile mixture through a medium-mesh strainer back into the empty chile-soaking bowl. 7. Without washing the blender jar, scrape the tomatillo mixture into it. Add 1 cup water, along with the cinnamon, black pepper, anise (if you are using it,) cloves, bread, and chocolate. Blend to a smooth purée, again a little extra water if necessary to keep the mixture moving. Press through the strainer back into the tomatillo-mixture bowl. 8. Check the fat in the pot: if there's more than a light coating over the bottom, pour off the excess; if the pot's pretty dry, film the bottom with a little more lard or oil. Set over medium-high heat. When quite hot, scrape in the chile purée and stir nearly constantly until mixture has darkened considerably and thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, another 5 to 10 minutes. 9. Add 6 cups water to the pot and stir to thoroughly combine. Partially cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Check the consistency: the mole should be thick enough to coat a spoon, but not too quickly. If it's too thin, simmer it briskly over medium to medium-high heat until a little thicker; if too thick, stir in a little water. 10. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 3/4 tablespoons, and the sugar (if you're new to seasoning mole, keep in mind that it's a delicate balance of salty, sweet, and spicy; it's best to start with the minimum quantities suggested, then refine the seasoning just before serving). 11. Heat the oven to 325. Brown all sides of the chicken or turkey in a skillet. Place the chicken or turkey (turkey is more traditional) into the sauce, and cover. Cook in the oven, covered, about 35 minutes until meat is done. Remove the meat from the sauce, slice, and cover with a generous ladle of the sauce.
I have to say that I'm beyond proud of myself for successfully making this amazing mole rojo. It was just as richly flavored and complex as I remembered it being the first time I ate it. Now, it's not nearly as good as Rick Bayless' but, as Adam said, there'd be something wrong if it was quite as good as his! Will this be a regular thing for me to make? Absolutely not. It was far too time-consuming to make all the time. But, It was really fascinating to see the process firsthand. I found myself wondering how exactly it would be done without the luxury of an electric blender, gas stove and oven, and fine-mesh sieve.
It's taken me almost 20 years to build up the nerve to make this once, but rest assured that I'll be making another type of mole again soon!
Now, I do have to brag for a minute. I tweeted yesterday to Rick Bayless himself if he had any hints for me for making mole for the first time, not thinking he'd answer. Not only did he answer, but he gave me great advice: