Recipe Dreams

Often times when first learning a recipe, either from a friend or a book, I concentrate so much on what the other person is saying, their method and their choice and amount of ingredient, I tend to lose sight of the most important component of cooking; how does it taste. As a social exchange recipes have their own charms and fascinations. But if i was alone and figuring it out for the first time, if a cinnimon stick and an allspice berry both dropped from the sky as I sat dozing beneath my coffee tree and wrapped me on the noggin, what would I make of them? No No what would I make with them? And if within the constant barroom brawl that goes on in my mind where rational thought is suppossed to take place, someone dared to throw a bottle of black chocolate stout at me, could I deftly catch it, snap it open and blend it into the frioles borrachas of my dreams?

2 cups dry black beans
2 cups water
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle black chocolate stout
4 ounces costeno chiles
4 ounces guajillo chiles
1/3 cup pecan meats
1/4 cup blanched almonds
2/3 cup sesame seeds
1 6-inch piece canela
1/2 bunch thyme (about 2 dozen sprigs)
1/4 cup dried Oaxacan oregano
6 allspice berries
1 tablespoon cumin seeds

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse them well.

In a 4 quart dutch oven, saute the onion in the oil over medium-high heat until clear, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the chili paste and cook another minute or two, until the cumin smell is covered by the chili smell. Add the stout and the water and bring to a simmer. Add the beans, bring everything to a simmer, then cover well and cook over low heat for 3 hours or until the beans are soft to the bite. If you think additional liquid is needed, add more beer. Finish the dish by seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and garnishing with chopped scallions. Keeps up to a week, covered and refrigerated. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

The day before beginning the sauce, remove the stems and tops from the chiles; carefully shake out and reserve the seeds. Rinse the chiles under cold running water. Spread them out in a single layer where they can dry completely. Let stand until the following day, turning occasionally and checking to be sure not a drop of moisture remains.

Crush the bread to fine crumbs or grind in a food processor. You should have about 1 cup. Set aside

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Spread the chiles ( they must be bone dry ) in one layer on a baking sheet. Toast them in the oven, turning frequently, until crisp and deeply blackened, about 20 minutes. Let the chiles stand at room temperature until completely cooled.

Spread the pecans and the almonds on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Place the crisp toasted chiles in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside.

On a griddle or in a small cast-iron skillet, heat the reserved chile seeds over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until thoroughly charred and black on all sides, about 5 minutes. (Because of the fumes, this is best done outdoors if you have the means.) Place the charred seeds in a bowl, cover with at least 2 cups cold water, and soak for 1 1/2 hours, changing the water twice. Drain and set aside.

Heat a griddle or medium-size cast-iron skillet over low heat. Roast the garlic, onion, tomato, and tomatillos, each in it’s turn, and setting it aside in a separate small bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the husks from the tomitillos and peel the rest, making sure to save the juices.

Place the sesame seeds in a medium size heavy skillet over medium heat and toast until golden, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly and shaking the pan. Immediately scrap out the seeds into a small bowl to stop the cooking. Set aside.

In a small heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the lard over medium-high heat until rippling. Add the canela, thyme, oregano, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. Fry the spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a small skillet, heat anothe 2 tablespoons of the lard until rippling over medium heat. Add the raisins and the bread crumbs; cook, stirring until the raisins are puffed and the bread is lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Now you are ready to puree all the ingredients, using either a blender/food processor combination or a blender alone.

If you using both machines, place the pecans, almonds, sesame seeds, bread raisin mixture, ground chiles, and drained chile seeds in the food processor (working in batches as necassary). Process to a smooth puree. Next place the fried spices, peeled garlic, onion, tomatoes, and tomatillos in the blender and process to a smooth puree. Combine the two mixtures in a large bowl.

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of lard over high heat until rippling. Add the puree, all at once and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the harshness of the chiles is mellowed, 35 to 40 minutes.

The mole should now be a heavy paste like a thick frosting mixture. It can be stored for later use or used at once. In either case, it should be thinned before further cooking. Place the paste in the blender when ready to thin; add 1 cup chicken stock and process to combine thoroughly.

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