This is a version of the manchamanteles described in Libro de cocina de D. Jose Moreda, año de 1832, which I stumbled upon in the archives of a public library in Oaxaca. Literally meaning “tablecloth stainer,” this dish is one of the traditional seven moles of Oaxaca and, with chunks of fruit and meat dispersed among the chile, is true to its name. The original recipe is quite simple and allows for some interpretation: First, you half-toast some presoaked chilhuacle, grind them with cinnamon, clove, and pepper, and mix with meat that has been fried in a rub of oregano, garlic, and vinegar in a pot. From there, add pieces of plantain and pineapple, the amount is not precise, and a little bit of bread crumbs, and you’ve got the mole.
Here, I substitute chilhuacle with New Mexico chile nativo, and add some pine nuts to account for the change of flavor profile in chiles and to create a bit more of a New Mexican flavor. If you have access to Oaxacan-grown chilhuacle, by all means use them, and omit the pine nuts to bring out the full flavor of the chile.
Manchamanteles with New Mexico chile nativo
- 6 New Mexico chile nativo pods OR 6 chilhuacle rojo pods
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 3 black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 slice whole wheat bread
- 1/2 pineapple skin removed and cubed
- 1/4 pound pancetta diced
- 1 1/4 pound chicken thighs skinless
- 1 ripe plantain
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or other neutral-flavored high-heat cooking oil
- In a bowl, combine garlic, oregano, and vinegar, and marinate chicken, covered, for at least an hour or up to a day, under refrigeration.
- Remove the stems and seeds from chiles and toast chiles on a skillet over medium-high heat. When the sides of the chiles begin to blacken, after about 2 minutes, flip and toast the other side. The chiles are sufficiently toasted when their skin has begun to darken but is not yet charred throughout. Be sure to keep the oven fan on and ventilate the room well.
- Place toasted chiles in a bowl of hot water and let sit. In the same skillet, toast cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pine nuts. Once pine nuts become chestnut brown, usually after about 1 minute, place all ingredients into a food processor, along with a couple pinches of salt, and let sit.
- Toast a slice of whole wheat bread and add to the food processor.
- Meanwhile, peel the plantain and cut into 1/2-inch-thick discs. Heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in the same skillet, and add plantain, frying each side until it begins to crisp and darken. Remove from heat once both sides are fried. Set aside.
- After the chiles have soaked for at least 20 minutes, remove from the hot water and add chiles to the food processor. Discard the chile water and add 1 cup of fresh water to the food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta. Once the fat begins to cover the bottom of the pan and the color of the pancetta begins to deepen, add chicken thighs, browning each side for 2–3 minutes. When the chicken is browned, add chile mix from the food processor, along with 1 1/2 more cups of water. Bring to a quick boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pineapple chunks and simmer for 10 additional minutes. Add fried plantains and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sauce is the desired consistency. Add salt, to taste.
Willy Carleton is the former co-editor of edible New Mexico and The Bite. He is the author of Fruit, Fiber, and Fire: A History of Modern Agriculture in New Mexico, which explores the cultural and environmental history of apples, cotton, and chiles in our region.