This is a dish Rick Bayless has come back to frequently over the years. It is the easiest mole he knows, and its crowd-pleasing flavors work well with everything from chicken, quail and duck to pork, swordfish and grouper. Having made it so long, he had to search his books to rediscover the original recipe he started with. It is from a series of books called Y La Comido Se Hizo.
The smokiness of the quail (a typical game bird in Mexico) brings out the chipotle in the sauce, and, in addition, the presentation is stunning.
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
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about 1 tablespoon
12 partially-boned, good-size quail (Bayless likes ones that are at least 4
A little freshly ground black pepper
Sprigs of flatleaf parsley, for garnish
How to Make It
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thirty to 45 minutes before serving, light a gas grill or prepare a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until they are covered with gray ash and medium-hot. Position the grill grate about 8 inches above the coals and lightly oil.
While the grill heats, lay the quail on a baking sheet. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, then brush both sides with some of the remaining oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Lay the quail on the hottest portion of the grill, breast-side down. Cover the grill and cook about 8 minutes, checking once or twice to ensure that they are not browning too quickly. Flip the quail and move to a cooler portion of the grill (quail finished over a cooler fire always seems juicier). Cover and continue grilling until the leg meat will separate from the bone quite easily when you squeeze a leg between two fingers, 4 to 6 minutes more.
Remove to a plate and keep warm in a low oven while you set up your plates. Ladle a generous 1/3 cup of the earthy-colored sauce onto each of 6 warm dinner plates. Set 2 quail over the sauce. Garnish with chopped peanuts and sprigs of parsley.
Copyright 1996 Rick Bayless, Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, Scribner
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