2 to 3ouncesdried chiles, stemmed and seeded(see headnotes for types)
1white onion, quartered
3tablespoonstomatillo puree, about 4 large tomatillos
1 pinttomato sauce, fire-roasted if possible
10 allspice berries,or 1/2 teaspoon ground
8whole cloves,or 1/4 teaspoon ground
20peppercorns,or 1/2 teaspoon ground
2teaspoonsdried Mexican oregano
3cupschicken stock or water
masa for thickening(optional)
Start by putting the chiles in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Cover the bowl to let them rehydrate, about 20 to 30 minutes. Don't let them soak more than 1 hour or they can become bitter.
Meanwhile, get a comal hot, or a heavy frying pan if you don't have a skillet, and char the onion and garlic. If you are using whole tomatillos because you don't have puree on hand, husk and char them, too. Ditto for tomatoes if you don't have tomato sauce. You will need about 8 Roma tomatoes, halved and charred, to equal about 1 pint of fire-roasted puree.
Once they've been charred, put the tomatillos in a blender. Roughly chop the onion and peel the garlic, then put those in the blender, too. If you've hand roasted the tomatoes, they go into the blender as well. If not, pour in the premade tomato sauce.
As the vegetables are charring and the chiles are soaking, toast the allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a hot, dry skillet until you can smell them. Move to a mortar and pestle with the salt. Crush the bay leaf as small as you can with your hands, then put it in the mortar. Add the ground cumin, cinnamon and oregano. Grind all of this to a powder and add to the blender. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can use a spice grinder.
Add the rehydrated chiles to the blender. Taste a little of the soaking water: If it's not bitter, add 1 cup. If it is bitter, toss it. Either way add 2 cups of the chicken stock; you'll want the third cup of stock if the soaking water was bitter. Puree this.
Optional step: Pour the sauce into a fine-meshed strainer set over a bowl and push it through with a rubber spatula, discarding the solids that won't go through the strainer. This reduces bitterness and makes a smoother sauce.
Get the lard hot in a sauce pot set over medium-high heat. Pour the sauce in all at once. It will spatter, so start stirring it vigorously to incorporate the fat. It should absorb it. Drop the heat to low and stir until the sauce is just barely bubbling.
Optional step:If the sauce is thinner than you want it, whisk in masa -- the actual dough, not masa harina -- a knob at a time until it is as thick as you want it. If you only have masa harina, follow the directions on the package to hydrate if before adding to the sauce.
Don't let the mole boil, but heat it through about 5 to 10 minutes. Keep it warm, not simmering, for service.