Every time I visit Oaxaca, my sister demands that I bring her at least half a dozen of these special empanadas back from every trip. When we finally nailed the recipe at the restaurant and successfully re-created it, it was as if she had won the lottery, because that meant she can finally enjoy them at home. She really can’t get enough. This empanada is completely different from any other because of its cooking process. The rich yellow mole is slowly cooked inside the tortilla over the comal, making it ooze out a bit and pierce through the masa to develop an attractive reddish color from the mole. It takes a bit longer for it to cook than the rest of the empanadas, because it needs to slowly crisp up on the comal. (I leave it on even longer, because I like it almost burnt.) They’re great served at room temperature, too, so they are perfect for a picnic. I like to serve these empanadas with a few chiles toreados on the side to give them that much-needed acid punch. It’s the perfect bite of Oaxacan flavors.
In a 2-quart (2 L) saucepan over medium-high heat, bring
Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add the chopped onions and turn once or twice so the onions are cooked and lightly charred, about 12 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Repeat with the garlic until the garlic is roasted and slightly charred as well. Remove and set aside.
Lastly, in batches, bring down the heat to low and toast the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaves, and thyme in the skillet until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer the toasted spices to a molcajete or spice grinder and grind until finely ground. Set aside.
When the chiles have softened, remove them from the soaking water and add them to a blender with
In batches, add half of the chile mixture with half of the masa to the blender and blend until smooth to make a slurry. Empty out the blender and do the same with the other half of the masa and the chile mixture.
Place the lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the masa-chile mixture and ground spices to the skillet. Stir well with a wooden spatula to combine. Season to taste, about
To assemble and cook the empanadas, make balls of masa that are about
As each tortilla is pressed and ready, in a comal or nonstick griddle over medium heat, carefully place the tortilla on the grill and cook one side. Turn over after 1 minute. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons (
Fold over like a quesadilla and cook on the edges of the comal where it’s not as hot. The mole will cook inside the empanada and requires a longer cooking time on top of the comal than a traditional quesadilla. The tortilla will turn a reddish color after all of the filling’s juices have expanded inside the masa. Continue until all the masa, chicken, and mole are gone.
Cook until the masa is fully cooked, about 15 minutes in total, about 5 minutes on each side. The outside crust should be crispy and the interior creamy.
Serve hot, with lime, pickled onions, chopped jalapeños, and serranos.
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