Smoky Peanut Mole with Grilled Pork Loin
2 medium (about 1 ounce) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
1/2 small white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
8 ounces (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
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste (depending on the saltiness of the broth)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast, halves separated if tied together
Freshly ground black pepper
Flat leaf parsley sprigs for garnish
To prepare the mole: Tear the ancho chiles into flat pieces, then toast them a few at a time on an ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat. Press them flat with a metal spatula for just a few seconds, until they crackle and change color slightly, then flip them 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 rehydrate them for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, 4-quart pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves and fry, stirring regularly, until they are well browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape them into a blender or food processor. Set the pan aside.
Roast the tomato on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until it’s 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 heat. When it’s 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 of the broth, the wine, vinegar and bay leaves.
Partially cover the pot and gently simmer over medium-low heat for about 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 and the sugar. Cover and keep warm.
To grill the pork: Forty-five to 60 minutes before serving, heat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. Either turn the burners in the center of the grill off or bank the coals to the sides of the grill for indirect cooking. Set the cooking grate in place, cover the grill and let the grate heat up, 5 minutes or so.
While the grill heats, brush the pork loin with some of the remaining oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Lay the pork in the center of the grill, not over direct heat. Cover and cook about 35 minutes, or until the center of the pork registers 145 degrees on a instant-read thermometer. The meat will feel rather firm (not hard) to the touch and cutting into the center will reveal only the slightest hint of pink.
Remove the meat to a cutting board. Tent it with foil and let it rest 5 minutes. Then cut it into thin slices. Ladle a generous 1/3 cup of the sauce onto each of 6 warm dinner plates. Set 2 or 3 pork slices over the sauce. Garnish with chopped peanuts and sprigs of parsley.
From Rick Bayless, chef and owner of Topolobambo and Frontera Grill, Chicago.
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