It's in the daily mission of every immigrant far from home to take the ingredients he can find and try to re-create the flavors he longs for, the flavors of home. That’s what inspired me to create a sauce that evokes the moles amarillos of Oaxaca and Querétaro without the hard-to-find chilies chilhuacles and hoja santa.
2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 2-inch pieces, including some fat, or 3 1/2 pounds lamb pieces with bone
6 cups water, or just enough to cover lamb
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
6 garlic cloves, peel and minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 large sprig fresh mint
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 ounce guajilo chiles (4), wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded, and deveined
4 dried árbol chilies, wiped clean and stemmed
1/2 pound tomatillos (5 or 6), husked, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1 cup packed, chopped cilantro
1/3 cup corn tortilla flour (masa harina)
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon aniseed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 small whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 pound carrots (2 medium), cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 pound small red potatoes (about 5), quartered
1/2 pound zucchini (1 medium), halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
Chopped white onions
Cook the Lamb
Put the lamb in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot with the remaining ingredients for cooking the lamb and bring the water to a simmer over high heat, skimming the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat, then cover and simmer until the lamb is tender, about 1 ¼ hours.
Make the Mole
Soak the quajillo chilies (there’s no need to toast them) with enough cold water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain the quajillos and discard the soaking water.
Meanwhile, heat the comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over low heat, and toast the arbol chilies, turning them over and pressing them down frequently, until the chilies are browned all over and blackened in spots, about 8 minutes.
Put the quajillos and arbol chilies in the blender jar with the tomatillos, cilantro, tortilla flour, garlic, aniseed, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, and salt. Add 2 cups of the broth from the lamb and blend to form a smooth puree, about 3 minutes. Be careful when you’re blending hot ingredients: Cover the top with a kitchen towel, and hold the top firmly in place with your hand. Work in batches to avoid blending with a full jar. Strain the mole through a medium-mesh sieve, if desired, to remove any tough bits of guajillo skin.
Finish the Mole with the Vegetables
Pour the mole into the pot with the lamb, stirring to incorporate. Swish a little liquid around in the blender and add it to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the carrots and potatoes, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and peas, and simmer, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt.
Serve bowls of the mole topped with chopped onion and cilantro, and pass lime wedges for guests to squeeze into their bowls, as well as warm corn tortillas to roll and dip into the sauce.
This mole keeps in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Variation with Beef Shank or Oxtail
Instead of lamb, use 3 pounds of beef shank, cut into 2-inch pieces, including pieces with bone, or 3 1/2 pounds of crosscut oxtail.