Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.
6 dried ancho chiles
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups unsalted homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil or rendered bacon fat
2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
28-oz can crushed tomatoes or whole plum tomatoes, pureed, with their juies, in a blender
1-oz chunk smoked ham, cut into 4 pieces
3/4 oz Mexican chocolate or 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 2 tsp sugar
With scissors, split open the chiles, and discard the stems and seeds. Cut the chiles into large flat pieces. In a large heavy skillet, toast the chile strips over moderate heat, turning occasionally with a spatula to prevent them from burning, until they begin to darken and smell pungent, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover with about 2 cups boiling water and let soak for 20 minutes, or until softened.
Meanwhile, add the garlic cloves to the skillet and toast for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skins have blackened in spots and the garlic has softened somewhat. Remove from the heat.
In a blender, combine the garlic, cinnamon, basil, oregano, cumin seeds, chicken broth, and vinegar. Drain the ancho chiles and add to the mixture. Blend at high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
In a large nonstick skillet, combine the oil and onions, cover and cook over low heat until the onions have begun to release some liquid, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to moderate, and saute the onions until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the ancho chile mixture and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and ham, partially cover, and simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes.
Add the chocolate and simmer until the sauce is very thick and has reduced to about 4 cups, about 10 minutes longer. Discard the ham (which will have given up its flavor) and add the sugar and salt to taste.
The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.