Mole is one of the world’s great sauces, and if you’ve ever had a genuine mole, you know why.
I did have a genuine mole once, while traveling in Chiapas, Mexico, years ago. I watched women doing the laborious preparation of the marvelous mole, which involved pounding pumpkin seeds (pipián) into a paste with a mortar and pestle, toasting several different kinds of chiles, and then simmering the sauce for hours.
Many moles end with a finishing touch of chocolate, which rounds out the flavors and creates a mysterious complexity.
Sometimes I want mole flavors without mole’s work, though.
That’s how I came to develop this faux mole when I wanted to braise some beef short ribs. Short ribs are one of my favorite cuts, but boy-oh-boy, are they fatty. I usually prepare them one day with plans to eat them the next.
Refrigerating the cooked ribs overnight allows the fat to rise, so it’s easily skimmed and discarded when cold.
Then it’s a simple matter of shredding the short ribs’ meat and reheating it with some of the cooking liquid so it’s ready to use as a filling for burritos, enchiladas, or tacos. I hate to waste food, so I strain and reduce the remaining cooking liquid to use as a sauce.
By the way, when you’re shopping for short ribs, you’ll see them either cut length-wise into rectangles or crosswise (usually labeled “flanken style”), with three or four bones visible. Flanken-style short ribs are great for lots of dishes, especially Korean galbi, but for this dish, you want the rectangular cut.
Cocoa-rubbed beef short ribs
Makes 2 to 4 servings
This recipe is perfect for an electric pressure-cooker (such as an Instant Pot); cook the ribs on high pressure for about 40 minutes to be sure they’re falling-off-the-bone tender.
Serve them from the pot immediately after cooking if you wish; a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes complements them. My preferred way to serve them, however, is to refrigerate overnight, then skim off the fat, remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Moisten the shredded beef with a little of the cooking liquid, then use to fill burritos, tacos or what have you.
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 to 2½ pounds beef short ribs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
½ cup beef broth
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo or chipotle hot sauce
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
Combine cocoa, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub all sides of the beef ribs with the mixture, reserving any leftovers. Let the ribs stand for up to two hours at room temperature, or up to four in the refrigerator.
When ready to cook, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy lidded pot such as a Dutch oven. When the oil is fragrant, add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir the tomatoes, broth, chipotles, cinnamon, and orange peel into the pot. Nestle the short ribs into the mixture in the pot, adding any leftover cocoa-cumin mixture.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. If the sauce starts to stick, addTim additional beef broth; you want the sauce to be thick but not sticky.
When the meat is done, remove from heat and allow to cool completely before refrigerating overnight.
The next day, skim off the fat that has risen to the surface. Remove the short ribs, discard the bones, and shred or chop the meat coarsely. Place the shredded meat into a pot or baking dish and moisten with some of the cooking liquid. Reheat the meat on the stove-top or in a 300-degree oven until hot. While the meat heats, strain remaining cooking liquid into a small pot, discarding the solids, and heat separately over medium-high heat until it has reduced to a thick sauce with the texture of ketchup.
To serve, fill corn or flour tortillas burrito-style with the shredded meat, then top with some of the thickened sauce. Serve immediately.
If you’re going to the trouble to make this dish (which really isn’t much trouble at all), you can double it and freeze some of the shredded meat covered in the cooking liquid. It will keep in the freezer for up to three months.