Why wouldn’t the cooks of the prehistoric, ash-covered village of Cerén
in El Salvador have developed sauces to serve over meats and vegetables?
After all, there is evidence that curry mixtures were in existence
thousands of years ago in what is now India, and we have to assume that
Native Americans experimented with all available ingredients. Perhaps
this mole sauce was served over stewed duck meat, as ducks were one of
the domesticated meat sources of the Cerén villagers.
3 tablespoons pumpkin or squash seeds (pepitas)
4 tomatillos, husks removed
1 tomato, roasted and peeled
1/2 teaspoon chile seeds, from dried chile pods
1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
2 tablespoons red chile powder, such as New Mexican, guajillo, or Chimayó
1 teaspoon annatto seeds, or substitute achiote paste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 ounce Mexican chocolate; or substitute bittersweet chocolate
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat; add the pumpkin seeds, and
dry-roast until the seeds start to pop. Shake the skillet once they
start to pop, continuing until they turn golden, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Take care that they don’t darken and remove from the pan to cool
completely. Place the seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder and
process to a fine powder.
Put the pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, tomato, chile seeds, tortilla, chile
powder, and annatto or achiote in a blender or food processor and
process, using just enough broth to form a paste.
Reheat the skillet over medium heat, add the oil, and when hot, add the
paste. Fry the paste, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.
Whisk in the remaining chicken broth and the chocolate, and cook,
stirring constantly, until thickened to desired consistency. If the
sauce becomes too thick, thin with either broth or water.