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Mole Rojo (Red Mole) With Turkey for a Celebration

If you've never tasted mole at all or your only experience with Mexico's national dish is an oily, oversweet jarred commercial product, why not try making your own? Experience the irrepressible flavor of Mexico in this elegantly balanced, irresistible sauce. Mole takes some work to assemble, but the self-contained steps can be done over four or five days before the party, and you'll have leftover sauce for enchiladas another day.

9 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 medium (about 6 ounces) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
A big pinch cumin, preferably freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, prefer- ably freshly ground
7 to 8 cups chicken broth (add 1 to 2 cups water to 49-ounce can)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich tasting lard (see "Four letter word"), plus a little more if needed
1/4 cup whole almonds (with or without skins)
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds ("pepitas") -- if you can't get them, substitute 1/4 cup more almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 large white onion, sliced 1/8- inch thick
8 ounces (about 5) plum tomatoes, halved
2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
1 corn tortilla, if serving corn tortillas; if not, omit
2 slices firm white bread, toasted
1/2 cup (3 ounces) roughly chopped Mexican chocolate (or 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped)
Salt, about 3 teaspoons, de- pending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about 1 heaping table- spoon
8- to 10-pound fresh, turkey, or roasting chicken, cut up (Ask butcher to do this and to cut each breast half into 4 pieces.)
Sesame seeds, about 2 ta- blespoons, toasted, for garnish
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Corn or flour tortillas, about 3 dozen 6- to 7-inch diameter

Roast the unpeeled garlic directly in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat until soft (they'll blacken in spots), about 15 minutes. While the garlic is roasting, toast the chiles on another side of the skillet. One or two at a time, press down firmly on the hot surface with a spatula. In a few seconds when they crackle, even send up a wisp of smoke, flip them and press down to toast the other side. In a small bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water. Peel cooled garlic.

Combine the oregano, black pepper, cumin and cloves in a food processor, along with the chiles, garlic and 1 cup of the broth. Process to a smooth purée, scraping and stirring a few times. Press through a food mill or with a plastic spatula through medium-mesh strainer into a bowl. If it is too thick to go through the strainer, add a little broth.

In a medium size (4-quart) pot (preferably a heavy Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat 2 tablespoons of the oil or lard over medium heat. Add the almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the raisins for a minute more, and cook just until plumped. Using a slotted spoon, remove the nuts, seeds and raisins to the food processor. Add the onions to the pan, adding more oil or lard as needed, and cook, stirring frequently, until richly browned, about 10 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to scoop the onions into the food processor. Add a little more oil or lard to the pan and fry the tomatoes and tomatillos until slightly charred and soft. Cool and peel tomatoes and add them and the tomatillos to the processor, along with the cinnamon and bread. Add 1 1/3 cups of broth and blend to a smooth purée, scraping and stirring every few seconds.

Return the pot to medium high heat, and, if necessary, add oil or lard just to coat the bottom lightly. When very hot, add the chile mixture and cook, stirring almost constantly until darker and very thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the puréed nut/seed mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for another few minutes, until very thick once again. Add 1 cup water to the remaining 4 cups broth and stir into the mole mixture. Add the chocolate, partially cover and simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes. Mole should be the consistency of thick soup. If it is too thick, add a little water. Taste and season with salt and sugar. (If you have never made mole before, season it until it is slightly sweet -- the sugar balances the flavors -- and perceptibly salty.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a little more oil or lard to the pan. When hot, sprinkle the turkey pieces with salt, then place in the pan skin-side down, without crowding, cooking in batches as needed. When well browned underneath, flip and brown the other side. If not completing the dish now, refrigerate the turkey. When ready to complete the dish, place the mole in a Dutch oven, cazuela or large baking dish that will hold the turkey pieces. Nestle the turkey pieces in the sauce and cook, basting periodically, for about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half, or until the leg meat is very tender but not falling apart.

Serve from the baking dish or transfer to a platter. Decorate with big tufts of parsley and sprinkle on a spoonful or two of sesame seeds for garnish. Serve with lots of extra mole, a bowl of plain white rice and warm tortillas on the side. Serves 10 to 12.

Adapted from "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen"

Monday, November 22, 1999

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