Cesar Solis, a native of Puebla, follows his mother’s recipe for mole, which he uses as a sauce for cooking, plating and dipping. The layered flavors of the chiles, fruits, nuts and burnt corn tortilla give the salsa depth, while the slight sweetness of tomatoes, tomatillos and chocolate create a harmonious balance.

Yield | 4 cups |

  • 7 dried poblano peppers
  • 12 dried mulato peppers
  • 7 dried pasilla peppers
  • 2 dried chipotle peppers
  • 2 medium white onions, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup blanched almonds
  • ¼ cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1 6-inch corn tortilla
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 5 large pitted prunes
  • 1 ripe plantain (platano macho)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp coriander seed
  • 3 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 tomatillos, cored and chopped
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, shaved*

| Preparation | Toast peppers in a skillet over medium heat until they are lightly browned and pliable. Be careful not to burn them, as this will cause a bitter flavor. Remove the seeds and soak peppers in lightly salted water overnight. If you like a hotter salsa, reserve ½ cup of the toasted seeds in a separate container. Don’t soak the seeds.

The following day, add 2 to 3 Tbsp soaking water to a skillet over medium heat. Roughly chop 1 onion and 1 garlic clove. Add to the skillet and cook until just softened. Place chiles, cooked onion and garlic, and seeds (if you’re using them) in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-low heat. Chop the remaining onion and garlic. Add to the pot and cook until golden-brown. Add the sesame seeds, almonds and peanuts. Cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve. Char the corn tortilla on both sides over a gas flame or under the broiler and then tear into strips. Add 2 Tbsp butter to the pot and fry the burnt tortilla, raisins, prunes, plantain and day-old bread. Stir in cloves, cinnamon and coriander seeds. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved onion and nut mixture.

Melt remaining butter in a skillet and fry the tomatoes and tomatillos until softened. Add to the pot, along with the chile purée and all remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Working in batches, blend the sauce until smooth and return to the pot. Cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until it becomes a paste. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add water, if needed, to bring salsa to the desired consistency. Use as a sauce or as a dipping salsa with chips.

* Mexican chocolate tablets are available at most Mexican markets.

Get more salsa recipes in our Beyond The Jar: Real Salsas feature!

More Feast Magazine | Inspired Midwest food culture covering St. Louis, Kansas City and mid-Missouri articles.