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Tablecloth Stainer Sauce (Manchamanteles)

                                                                                                                     Photo by Michael Sofronski.www.michaelsofronski.com.
This is the first homemade main-dish sauce that I ever ate from the southern Mexico state of Chiapas. It changed my whole perception of Mexican food. I was amazed at the combination of flavors–rich, tart, sweet, spicy–exploding on my palate like fireworks. At my restaurant, Zarela, we serve this with roasted duck, and it is my absolute favorite dish there. It’s also wonderful served with braised chicken and spare ribs.

I made it today and it was sublime and a trip back in time to many happy nights at Zarela Restaurant where it was one of my customers’ favorites.


2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
4 medium-hot whole dried red chiles, such as ancho, guajillo or dried Anaheim, stems intact
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice
2 bay leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground Mexican cinnamon (canela) or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
3/4 cup pitted dried prunes, whole or sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 (20-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple chunks, with juice
1/2 cup dry sherry or red wine
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 to 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, cored and cut into eighths
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, optional



Heat lard in small or medium heavy skillet over medium heat until rippling. Fry whole chiles, one at a time, turning several times with tongs, until puffed and red or slightly orange in color, 30 to 60 seconds. Be careful not to let them burn.

As chiles finish cooking, add them to boiling water in bowl. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Push them down if they float. Drain.

Pull or cut off chile tops and scrape out seeds. Discard tops and seeds. Place soaked chile pods in blender with garlic, oregano, 1 cup water and salt. Process to smooth puree. Add more water if desired to facilitate blending, but sauce should be thick.

Pour sauce into medium-mesh sieve over bowl and force it through with wooden spoon, scraping and rubbing to push through as many solids as possible. Discard any bits that won’t go through. Makes about 1 cup.



Heat oil in heavy saucepan over high heat until hot but not quite smoking. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add tomatoes, breaking them up with your hand or with spoon. Add bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and oregano. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes.

Working in batches if necessary, puree mixture in blender and transfer to large Dutch oven or saucepan.

Bring pureed sauce to boil over high heat. Add dried apricots, prunes and raisins, pineapple with its juices, wine and vinegar. Let simmer 1 minute, then add 1 cup Red Chile Adobo. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer sauce, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Add apple pieces to sauce. Let sauce return to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Finish sauce, if desired, by stirring in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter.

Nutritional info



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