Smoky Peanut Mole.

mole! it’s been a while since the last mole experience, but it’s spring break (so we have extra time) and we had some friends over for dinner (so we wanted to impress). thus, a return to mole. the fact that rick bayless described this is as a very simple mole did make it a bit more appealing. you can buy bayless’s books like we did, but the recipe is also online here via food and wine magazine.

Ingredients

2 medium (about 1 ounce total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 small white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
8 ounces (about 1 medium-large round or 3 to 4 plum) ripe tomatoes
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, plus a few tablespoons chopped for garnish
2 slices firm white bread (or 1/2 dry Mexican bolillo roll), torn into pieces
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded
1/8 teaspoon allspice, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
About 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about 1 tablespoon

  1. Tear the ancho chiles into flat pieces, then toast a few at a time on an ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat: press flat with a metal spatula for a few seconds, until they crackle and change color slightly, then flip and press again. (If they give off more than the slightest wisp of smoke, they are burning and will add a bitter element to the sauce.) In a small bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, medium-size (4-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium. Add the onion and garlic cloves, and fry, stirring regularly, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a blender jar. Set the pan aside.
  3. Roast the tomato on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes, then flip it and roast the other side; cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomato. Add the tomato to the blender, along with the peanuts, bread, chipotles, drained anchos, allspice and cinnamon. Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth and blend until smooth, stirring and scraping down the sides of the blender jar, and adding a little more liquid if needed to keep everything moving through the blades. Press the mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in the pot over medium-high. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once. Stir as the nutty-smelling, ruddy-red amalgamation thickens and darkens for about 5 minutes, then stir in the remaining 2 cups broth, the wine, vinegar and bay leaves. Partially cover and let gently simmer over medium-low heat for roughly 45 minutes, stirring regularly for the flavors to harmonize. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little more broth to keep it the consistency of a cream soup. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons, and the sugar. Cover and keep warm.

this came together with relatively little pain. we made the sauce in advance and let it sit, then fried up some shredded pork and added a healthy ladel-ful of this to the pan and served as tacos. the result was pretty delightful – as with all moles, the sauce has a real depth of flavor and complexity. the peanut shines through, and there is a touch of heat from the chiles, and it’s all just magic and rainbows. a big winner, and easy enough that hopefully we’ll do it again sooner rather than later.

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Sweet Potato Fries.

these sweet potato fries, originally found, originally found at the wittily named savoring the thyme site, have become something of a staple for carla and i when we want something quick and tasty that isn’t actually fried.

here’s the deal:
2-3 sweet potatoes
4-5 garlic cloves
teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

preheat the oven to 425. chop those potatoes into whatever shape you want (and if you want to peel them, we won’t stop you). dice the garlic, and toss everything togther in a bowl. bake on a parchment paper’d baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, and you’ve got it.

simple but tasty, and great on the side of a lot of dishes.