Photograph courtesy of Dos Caminos.
Ivy Stark, Dos Caminos
“Mole negro is a complex dish that requires dozens of ingredients which are toasted separately and ground together. It is traditionally reserved for special occasions, because of the labor and time-intensive preparation. It is often made by large groups of village women in preparation for the Day of the Dead, to be served to the entire village during the fiesta. For a touching celebration dedicated to honoring the passing of time, there’s no more poetically appropriate sauce than the exceptionally time-consuming mole.”
Short Ribs in Mole Negro
For the mole:1 lb. ancho chiles
1/2 lb. guajillo 1/2 lb. dried cascabel chile½ lb. chilhuacle negro 2 lbs. tomatoes, chopped 1 lb. tomatillo, chopped Vegetable oil 4 slices white bread 1 4-inch pieces of canela 5 whole cloves 5 whole peppercorns 1 sprig fresh thyme 1 pinch of cumin 1/2 cup sesame seeds 1/2 cup shelled peanuts 1/2 cup blanched almonds 1/2 cup small raisins 1 1/2 plantains, chopped 1/2 cup walnuts 1 small onion, roasted and chopped 1 small garlic clove, roasted and minced 1 corn tortilla 3 oz. Mexican chocolate1/2 cup chicken stock, plus 2 1/2 cups 3 tablespoons lard
For the short ribs:8 beef short ribs, weighing 6 to 8 pounds
4 tablespoons kosher salt1 large onion1 whole carrot1 bay leaf6 chiles de arbol1 cup balsamic vinegar1 tablespoon chopped garlic1 cup red wine½ cup brown sugar4 cups mole negro (recipe below)Salt and pepper to taste
For the mole:Toast ancho, guajillo, cascabel chiles, and chilhuacle negro in a heavy skillet until their skins blister. Remove from skillet and stem, seed, and devein chiles. Set aside.
Place tomatoes and tomatillos in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Drain and blend in a blender or food processor and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over low flame. Cut the bread into pieces and fry in the oil until golden brown. Add canela, cloves, peppercorns, thyme, cumin, sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds, raisins, plantains, and walnuts. Stir ingredients together. Add more oil to coat ingredients lightly. Add onion and garlic. Continue to fry over low flame for about 20 minutes. Add blended tomato mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place corn tortilla over open flame and cook until burnt and crispy. Cut up and set aside.
In a medium frying pan, fry roasted chiles in oil along with burnt tortilla pieces for a few minutes. Combine tomato/spice/nut mixture with chile mixture in large saucepan. Add chocolate and cook until melted over a low flame. Add about 1/2 cup chicken stock to mixture and stir. Place mixture into blender and puree until all ingredients have combined completely. More chicken stock may be added to smooth out the sauce.
To a large saucepan, add lard. Cook the puree in the lard, stirring constantly. Add more of the chicken stock until mole just coats the back of a spoon. Simmer sauce for another 30 minutes over a low flame.
Pass through a fine strainer and adjust seasoning with salt if necessary.
For the short ribs: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Season each of the short ribs generously with the kosher salt. Lay them side by side in a large, heavy roasting pan. Scatter the onion, carrot, bay leaf, and chile de arbol over the ribs.
Combine the vinegar, wine, brown sugar, and garlic in a small bowl and pour over the short ribs. The liquid should come three-quarters way up the sides of the short ribs. Add more chicken stock if necessary.
Cover the pan tightly with foil and then again with a second layer of foil.
Place the pan in the oven and braise the short ribs for three to three and a half hours. Remove the foil and check that the short ribs fall apart when poked with a fork. Remove the ribs carefully with tongs, cover, and set aside at room temperature.
Strain the liquid through a fine strainer into a large container. Chill the pitcher of liquid for at least one hour so the fat rises to the top. Remove the fat; it should form a large, solid chunk at the top when cold.
In a large deep-sided sauté pan over high heat, bring the skimmed braising liquid to a boil and add the short ribs and mole negro. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until they start to glaze the sauce. The will thicken after 15 minutes. Keep warm.
Roll the short ribs around in their sauce, using a pair of tongs, to make them a little more glazed and sticky.
Pour more mole negro over the short ribs to serve.