Pork Ribs in Smoky Pepper Sauce (Mole de Espinazo)

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pork Ribs in Smoky Pepper Sauce (Mole de Espinazo)

Some of our American friends get a little freaked out when we talk about Mole Espinazo.

"You're eating spines? A spinal cord?"

Hog farmers and Latinos might be a bit less squeamish. They often more familiar with different cuts of meat and are willing to try different parts of the animal. The espinazo, or pork spine cut, is simply a cross-section of the backbone with two sections of tenderloin attached. It's leaner than country-style ribs and cheaper than pork loin. The mole sauce in this recipe is a reddish-brown smoky pepper sauce with a tiny tingle of heat and a ton of flavor.


2 lbs. Pork Espinazo (Pork Spine)*
2 medium white onions
4 cloves garlic
Bunch of Cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
4 dried pasilla chilies
1 dried arbol chile
1 large tomato, quartered
3 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 corn tortillas, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds – freshly ground
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup fresh green beans
2 cups baby spinach or kale, rinsed and chopped
3 tsp sunflower oil (or grape seed oil)

*Can substitute Country Style Pork Ribs, or Rib Chops


Sear the espinazo meat in a large stockpot with a little oil. Add 2 tbsp of cilantro, salt and pepper, garlic, and one of the onions, quartered. Cover with water and boil over high heat for 15 minutes, skimming off the scum. Cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for at least 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat and reserve the broth.

In a large skillet, heat ½ to 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil over medium heat. Add the chilies to the skillet and toast them for a couple of minutes on each side until they are pliable and fragrant, then set them aside.

Roasting pasilla peppers

Chop the remaining onion and sauté until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and tomatillos and sauté until tender.

Cooking tomatillos for mole espinazo

Transfer the mixture to the heatproof bowl with the heated chilies. Cover with 3 - 4 cups of the reserved broth. Let soak for about 15 minutes or until the chilies are soft and tender.

Tomatillos and pasillas soaking

Remove the stems from the chilies and cut into slices. Transfer the chilies, tomatoes, garlic, tomatillos, and tortillas to a blender, and puree the mole ingredients until smooth.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp sunflower or grape seed oil over medium-low heat. Strain the mole sauce through cheesecloth into the skillet. The sauce should not be too thin or too thick; it should stick to the back of a wooden spoon. If necessary, pour about 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of water or remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, into the mole sauce until desired consistency.

Straining mole sauce

 Stir in the ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cut the potatoes into 1/2" slices and rinse them in cold water. Drain. Add the sliced potatoes and green beans. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Add the meat to the mole mixture in the skillet. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 25 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the chopped baby spinach or kale to the mole and cook 5 minutes longer.

Serve with Mexican rice, Chihuahua cheese, warm corn tortillas, and chopped cilantro.


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