Mole Sauce: Cacahuatl Chili

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Illustration by Anni Betts

Art’s cacahuatl-inspired chili is a Tex-Mex chili in a rich mole sauce. To make it vegetarian, substitute about a quart of mixed vegetables, such as kidney or pinto beans, sweet potatoes or orange squash, corn, green pepper and/or carrots sautéed in olive oil for the beef.

You can adjust the amount of heat by increasing or decreasing the cayenne pepper. Most chili powders are a blend of peppers, along with spices such as cumin, but you could make your own blend. YIELDS ABOU 1 1/2 QUARTS (6 TO 8 SERVINGS)

• 2 pounds ground beef
• 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce plus 4 cans water
• 1/3 cup chili powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
• 1 1/2 teaspoons red (cayenne) pepper
• 3 3/4 teaspoons dried onion
• 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
• 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
• 2 teaspoon raisins
• 1/4 teaspoon French tarragon
• 1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons dark chocolate (bits or shavings)
• 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
• 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons masa harina (optional)

1. Sear the meat in a 2-quart Dutch oven or stew pot until browned, then pour off the fat. Add tomato sauce and water.

2. Grind spices, raisins, chocolate, seeds and nuts to a coarse state in a blender. Add this spice mixture and the vanilla to the pot and stir to blend.

3. Cover kettle and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Skim off any fat.

4. To thicken, mix masa harina with some water to form a thick, but flowable mixture; stir into the chili. Simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning.

This recipe first appeared in The Chile Pepper Book by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger (Interweave Press, 1994).

Click here for the main article, Mole Sauce: The National Dish of Mexico.

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