Lamb Shanks Braised in Mole Poblano

Based on Rick Bayless’s recipe, but modified based on ingredients available in Idaho. Because this recipe is lengthy, you may wish to devote one day to making the mole and the second to braising the lamb shanks in the mole. It is recommended to read through the entire recipe ahead of time, to plan out the process.


  • 12 dried ancho chiles
  • 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 6 dried pasilla chiles
  • 5 Tbsp seasame seeds
  • 1 tsp whole star anise
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 1 1/2" cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 7 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup skin on almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw shelled peanuts
  • 1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 stale corn tortillas
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
  • 1 large tomato, quartered
  • 4 Lava Lake Lamb shanks
  • 1 cup finely chopped Mexican chocolate
  • 4 Tbsp sugar, plus more to taste
  • Tortillas for serving
  • Cilantro for serving


  • Step 1

    Remove stems and seeds from chiles, reserving seeds in a bowl. Tear chiles into pieces and set aside.

  • Step 2

    Heat a dry small pan over medium heat. Add 4 Tablespoons of the chile seeds and 4 Tablespoons of sesame seeds to the pan and toast for about two minutes (discard remaining chile seeds). Transfer to a spice grinder. Add star anise, peppercorns and cloves to the pan. Toast for an additional two minutes and add to the spice grinder. Add thyme, oregano, bay leaves and cinnamon stick to the spice grinder. Grind to a powder and set aside in a large bowl.

  • Step 3

    Add oil to a cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat. Once oil has reached medium heat, add 1/4 of chiles and cook, turning with tongs until toasted, about 20-30 seconds. Remove chiles from pan and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining chiles until all have been cooked. Reserve oil. Heat about 2 cups of water in a tea kettle until it’s boiling. Transfer all toasted chiles to a large bowl. Add boiling water to cover the chiles. Allow the chiles to steep for about thirty minutes and strain, reserving the soaking liquid.

  • Step 4

    Place 1/3 of soaked chiles, 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup of stock into a blender. Puree the mixture until it’s as smooth as possible. Place a sieve over a large bowl and push the mixture through the sieve with a spatula, discarding solids. Repeat this two more times until you’ve used up all of chiles. Set chile puree aside. Don’t clean the blender. Discard the remaining chile soaking liquid.

  • Step 5

    Return the pan with oil to medium heat. You’ll be quickly frying the almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, bread and tortillas, one ingredient at a time. To streamline the process, place each ingredient into a small bowl. Set up a plate with paper towels to drain the ingredients as soon as they emerge from the oil. Once oil is hot, fry almonds for a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towels. Add peanuts, fry for 45 seconds, and remove to the paper towels. Fry pumpkin seeds for 20 seconds. Remove to paper towels and finally fry raisins for 15 seconds. Allow all to drain. Fry bread, turning once with tongs to ensure that it fries evenly, until the bread turns golden brown (about 3 minutes). Remove bread and allow to drain. Fry tortillas, again flipping once and removing from the oil once they turn golden brown. Allow to drain and cool a bit, and then break bread and tortillas into small pieces.

  • Step 6

    Transfer fried nuts, seeds, raisins, bread and tortillas to a large bowl. Add the spice mixture from step 2 and set aside.

  • Step 7

    Set aside 3 Tablespoons of oil from the skillet into a dutch oven. Secondly, discard all but 2 Tablespoons of remaining oil from the skillet. Heat remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove garlic and onions to the bowl with nuts, spices and bread. Add tomatillos and tomato to the skillet and cook an additional 10 minutes. Again, transfer to bowl with nut and spice mixture.

  • Step 8

    Transfer contents of bowl with nut and spice mixture to the blender. Add 2 1/2 cups of stock and puree. Again, press through a strainer using a spatula and set aside.

  • Step 9

    Keep heat of dutch oven at medium-high. Add chile puree and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add spice and nut puree. Continue to cook, stirring often for an additional 30 minutes. Add remaining 4 cups of stock and chocolate and stir to incorporate. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Place a lid partially covering the dutch oven and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Season mole with salt and sugar to taste. Remove from the heat.

  • Step 10

    Heat reserved 3 Tablespoons of oil in a separate pan over medium-high heat. Pat shanks dry and season with salt. Brown each shank, about five to seven minutes per side (you’ll need to do this in 2 batches). Remove shanks from the pan.

  • Step 11

    Heat oven to 325°. Place shanks in the mole sauce in the dutch oven. Cover and cook for three hours. Check on the shanks every once in a while to make sure that all shanks are cooking evenly. You may want to rearrange shanks in the mole to ensure even cooking.

  • Step 12

    Remove shanks from the dutch oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. You can serve them whole, as a full shank, or remove the meat from the bone, shred and serve with tacos and mole sauce. Either way, garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro.