Pro's Pantry delivers exclusive recipes by Christopher Lee, executive chef of three well-known St. Louis restaurants:" target="_blank">Café Ventana, Chuy Arzola's and Sanctuaria. We share his made-from-scratch dinners - featuring whatever ingredients he has on hand in his pantry - in our weekly e-newsletter. Sign up at" target= "_blank">HERE, so you never miss an installment!

Oftentimes, the random stuff in my pantry doesn't lend to making any particular dish. After sorting through everything recently, though, I realized I could cobble together a pretty tasty mole.

There are many kinds from many regions. My version, adapted from Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking by Roberto Santibanez, is fairly quick, provided you take the time to gather all the ingredients.

I used the mole on leftover chicken, which I pulled and served on tortillas with avocado and cilantro. You could also serve it over carnitas. Either way, it's great with margaritas.

Red Peanut Mole

Adapted by Christopher Lee

Serves | 8 |

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup shelled, skinless peanuts
  • 1 ripe plantain, sliced
  • 1 large red apple (Chef's tip: McIntosh, Gala or Red Delicious would work well.)
  • ½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup pitted prunes
  • 2 oz guajillo chile, stemmed, and seeded
  • ½ oz pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ tsp anise seed
  • ¼ tsp coriander seed
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 corn tortilla
  • 5 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

| Preparation | Heat oil in medium skillet and fry garlic, peanuts, plantain, apple, onion, prunes and chiles one by one. (Chef's tip: Garlic and peanuts should be fried until golden; plantains and apples until soft and lightly browned; onions until light, golden brown; and prunes until puffy and blistered.)

As ingredients are fried, transfer to bowl with slotted spoon. (Chef's tip: There should be little oil remaining.)

Toast allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon, anise, coriander and cumin until fragrant and add to fried ingredients.

Toast tortilla then crumble on top. Add 3 cups stock and soak 20 minutes.

Purée mix in a blender in two separate batches, adding 1 cup stock and 1 tsp salt to each batch.

Transfer all to bowl. Heat heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat, add mole and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

As mole thickens, add stock if necessary to maintain a velvety consistency. Adjust taste with vinegar, salt and pepper before serving.

Christopher Lee, executive chef of Padda Enterprises, has more than 23 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He currently serves as the executive chef for" target="_blank">Cafe Ventana, Chuy Arzola's and Sanctuaria.

He apprenticed under the late Jean Claude Guillossou at L'Auberge Bretonne. Working at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, Lee had the opportunity to work with some of the finest chefs in the world, including Wolfgang Puck and Nick Stellino and chefs from the Casino de Ville in France.

At the Ritz, he contributed to awards such as the DiRoNA and awards from Wine Spectator and Gourmet Magazine. Lee was the executive chef for Kirk's American Bistro, which was listed in the 2004 Zagat guide as one of St. Louis' top restaurants. He also was the opening executive chef for Mélange, where he was recognized by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as one of St. Louis' Top 10 Up and Coming Professionals.