Mole is a rich Mexican sauce made with dried chiles that can be served with chicken, pork, beef and even seafood. Some mole sauces, like mole poblano, are made with upwards of 40 different ingredients. If you’ve never prepared mole completely from scratch, this mole ranchero is the perfect starter recipe. It's one of the easiest mole sauces to make.
When making mole ranchero, I like to serve it with costillita (pork spareribs), because it adds a hearty richness to the mole sauce. To complete the dish, serve these stick-to-your-finger ribs with a side of Mexican red rice, grilled nopales (cactus pads) and warm tortillas.
Place the spareribs, onion, garlic and cilantro in a large saucepan. Fill saucepan with enough water to completely cover the ribs; season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 60 to 90 minutes until ribs are tender. Remove from heat. Strain and reserve the broth; discard onion, garlic and cilantro.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the dried ancho and guajillo chiles for about 30 seconds per side. Transfer chiles to a large heat-proof bowl. Fry the tomatoes and tomatillos for about 5 minutes until the skin is lightly charred. Transfer tomatoes to bowl with the dried chiles.
Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining vegetable oil to skillet. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes until onion is translucent and garlic is a light golden brown. Transfer onion and garlic to bowl with chiles. Fry the corn tortillas until golden and crisp. Transfer to bowl with chiles.
Pour 3 cups of the hot pork broth over the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and let ingredients soak for about 10 minutes. Working in batches if necessary, puree all the ingredients in the bowl in a blender until smooth.
Heat remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Strain the mole sauce into the Dutch oven, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or wire whisk to prevent clumps from forming. Stir in 1 cup of the pork broth; season mole with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and cloves. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until the mole sauce starts to thicken. (If mole sauce gets too thick, stir in ½ cup of pork broth at a time until desired consistency.)
Add the cooked spareribs to the mole sauce; season with salt to taste, if necessary. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let mole simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Serve with Mexican rice, refried beans, cooked nopales, and plenty of warm corn tortillas.