Cooking Like A Mexican

Manchamanteles
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

I dedicate this recipe to my boss, the publisher of this paper, who’s philosophy of cooking goes something like this: Screw it if there are more than three ingredients, send out for Dominos. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches comes in at three, as does her all important waffles, with egg, mix, and water. She’s equally good with breakfast: yogurt, fruit and muslix sprinkled on top. Every damn day. She does have a point that everything she likes fits within her three ingredient parameters, I have to allow her that.

But today you, my precious readers, and I, are going to cook up a dish that would drive the boss around the bend because it takes patience, time, and loving care with more than 30 ingredients. Those are three ingredients Carrie does not posses. She has no patience, no time for cooking, and certainly no loving care with food. So here goes without her. She will show up when it’s ready, sniff at it, and ask if it’s available at Taco Bell. If it’s not, it’s immediately put on the suspect list.

May, June, and July are the favorite months to celebrate weddings, and one of the most traditional dishes to be served in Mexican weddings is the mole sauce. Pronounce like moly. But not only the mole that most restaurateurs offer in their menus, which by the way I don’t understand why it is still being so limited. Specially now, when it is not as hard as it was before to find a large variety of ingredients almost in every supermarket in town.

Mexican food is by no means, limited in selection like you see on the local restaurant menus. Actually, there might be more than 15 differet kinds of enchiladas and a similar number of moles. In the state of Oaxaca alone, there are seven kinds of moles..

Well, going back where I was, there is a kind of mole that is call Manchamanteles. The translation would be literally: stained tablecloth. And the name comes exactly from what you are thinking. The table cloth will have mole stains all over it because it’s consistence is similar to a broth and nearly everything in the kitchen goes into it.

This dish was first created in the city of Puebla like many other traditional Mexican dishes, and the reason is because that area had a major diversity of Mexican tribes and because Puebla was created for the Spaniards and their Mexican wives and their criollo descendants. The word criollo means the result of a baby with a Spanish father and a Mexican mother. Creol in English. Half breed in TV Westerns. This went on in a big way because no Spanish women traveled from Spain to the Americas in those days. What’s a soldier to do?

So this is the biggest example of the cooking culture. The moles and many other traditional dishes are the mixture or blend of flavors from the many varieties of chiles, turkey, peanuts, tortilla, cocoa, all of Mexican origin, and spices imported from overseas, as well as almonds, sugar, wheat bread with egg and sesame seeds, a mixture which has brought fame to this ceremonial stew, which Mexican households usually only eat on very special days, as in baptizes, weddings, and anniversaries. A good mole will have up to 30 ingredients in it, which means it’s a mother to make.

Manchamanteles is the greatest example of  the creativity of Mexican, and Creole women, who wanted to give a good use to all the ingredients they had in their kitchen and in their cupboards, and for two, to please their husbands, children and even the Spaniard soldiers. There were no male cooks or chefs in those times.

Manchamanteles has been also called fruit mole by some foreigners. With the simple name of this recipe manchamanteles, (again, tablecloth stains, I say it again because I know you suck at Spanish). In this dish you will find an infinity of flavors and aromas in it. Although unlike other moles, this one has the particularity of being made with fruits and of nectar.

The origin of this recipe is situated in Puebla, land of moles. It is a deep red color thick broth that can be combined with chicken or pork or even a combination of both. To enjoy it to the maximum also serve on the plate white rice and warm tortillas and why not some of the fruits that were used to prepare the mole.

Ok, now going to the mole. Before we go to the recipe I will like to say that this doesn’t have to be hot. Remember that if you remove the seeds inside the chiles, you will get the entire flavor with almost none hotness.

It is an complete meal in one dish and great to serve as dinner on a windy summer evening.

About the Recipe

The preparation of this recipe requires patience, kitchen experience, and strong nerves. It has always been a whole ritual and yes, it takes time.

If you don’t have apple nor pear to prepare the manchamanteles, don’t worry because in the original recipe any seasonal fruit can be used like the apricot, peach, banana, etc. The only fruit that does be indispensable is the pineapple.

The pineapple can be used fresh or canned.

Prepare the manchamanteles with a homemade chicken stock so it has a natural flavor.

The preparation of this mole takes 50 minutes.

Ingredients

8 Ancho Peppers

6 Tomatoes

2 Pineapple slices without skin nor core

1 Apple

1 Pear

1 cup of Almonds

1/2 Onion

1 Garlic head

6 Cloves

2 Bay leaves

1 Cinnamon stick

1 Marjoram sprig

1 Thyme sprig

1 tablespoon of Sugar

1/2 tablespoon of Oregano

1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg

1 qt of Chicken Stock

3 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons of White Vinegar

8 Black Peppercorns

1/4 tablespoon of Salt

Procedure

Cut some Ingredients

1. Cut the superior part of 8 ancho peppers, then reserve.

2. Cut 6 tomatoes into quarters, then set aside.

3. Finely chop 1/2 onion, then reserve.

4. Separate the garlic cloves from 1 garlic head and peel them; then reserve.

Work with the chilies

1. Put on a griddle over medium heat the 8 ancho peppers that were cut and roast them for about 2 minutes, until all their sides are lightly roasted; move them regularly with some tongs.

Don’t roast the chiles for too long because its flavor can become bitter.

2. Transfer from the griddle to a bowl, with the tongs, the chilies that were roasted.

3. Cover the chilies that were put in the bowl with warm water and leave them soaking for about 5 minutes, until they soften.

4. Transfer from the bowl to a colander, with the tongs, the chilies that were soaked and remove the water excess; then set aside.

Work with the oil

1. Heat in a saucepan over low heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

2. Add in the saucepan:

2 Bay Leaves.

1 Marjoram sprig.

1 Thyme sprig.

1/2 tablespoon of oregano

3. Mix the saucepan ingredients and fry them for approximately 1½ minutes, until the spices are moderately fried; move them regularly.

4. Discard the spices that were fried and keep the vegetable oil in the saucepan.

Fry the Ingredients

1.Incorporate in the saucepan 1 cup of almonds and fry them over low heat for about 2 minutes, until they are lightly fried; stir regularly.

2. Add in the saucepan:

The ancho peppers that were soaked.

The onion that was minced.

3. Mix the saucepan ingredients and fry them for about 2 minutes, until the chilies and the onion are moderately fried; stir regularly.

4. Add in the saucepan:

The quarters of the Tomatoes that were cut.

The Garlic cloves that were peeled.

6 Cloves

1 Cinnamon stick.

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

8 black peppercorns.

5. Mix the saucepan ingredients and fry them for about 3 minutes, until the garlic cloves are lightly fried and the tomatoes soften; stir regularly.

Cook Many Ingredients

1. Incorporate in the saucepan, along with the other ingredients:

1 tablespoon of sugar.

1 qt of chicken broth

3 tablespoons of White Vinegar.

1/4 tablespoon of Salt.

2. Mix the saucepan ingredients and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.

3. When the broth boils reduce to low heat and leave the mixture cooking for about 15 minutes, until the solid ingredients often and the broth reduces a bit.

4. Transfer from the saucepan to a blender, with a kitchen spoon, the mixture that was cooked.

5. Blend very well the ingredients and reserve.

The Last Steps

1. Finely chop 1 apple, 1 pear and 2 pineapple slices without skin nor core; then set aside.

2. Add in the saucepan:

The mixture that was blended.

The apple that was minced.

The Pear that was minced.

The pineapple slices that were minced.

3. Mix the saucepan ingredients and bring the manchamanteles mole to a boil over high heat.

4. When the manchamanteles mole boils reduce to low heat and leave it cooking for 4 minutes, until the fruits soften and they release their juice.

There you have it! If you have managed to wade through all this, you must not have a life. Or possibly cooking is your life.

Alejandra