Rinse chiles under cold running water, removing seeds. Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Briefly toast chiles, a few at a time, on griddle, turning once or twice, until their aroma is released. Do not let them scorch or the dish will be ruined! As chiles are toasted, place in a large bowl or saucepan. Cover with boiling water and let soak until softened, no more than 10 minutes, while you prepare the spices. Drain and reserve. Rinse and dry the griddle, which you will need later.
Heat a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add peppercorns and cloves; toast, shaking pan and stirring constantly, until their aroma is released, about 1 minute. Set aside in a small bowl. Lightly toast cinnamon in the same pan for about 1 minute; add to the peppercorns and cloves. Toast oregano in the same pan until fragrant and add to the spices. Set aside while you prepare the nuts.
In a heavy medium skillet, heat 2 to 4 tablespoons of the lard over medium heat until rippling. Add sesame seeds and saute, stirring, just until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes; do not let them darken. Remove to a medium-sized heat-proof bowl.
In the same pan, saute peanuts in the same manner, stirring, until lightly browned, adding a little more lard. Add to the bowl with sesame seeds. Saute the slivered almonds, then the pecans or walnuts, by the same procedure, using a little more lard each time and adding toasted nuts to the sesame and peanuts. Set aside. Place raisins, prunes, and apricots in a bowl and pour hot sherry over them. Set aside to soften. Peel plantain and cut into 1/2-inch slices. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter or lard until very hot. Add plantain slices, and saute until golden on both sides. Set aside. Heat griddle or cast-iron skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Place unpeeled garlic and onion on griddle and roast, turning several times, until onion is blackened on all sides and garlic is dark brown and somewhat softened. Let cool slightly. Peel onion and garlic; coarsely chop onion. Set aside. On same griddle roast the tomatoes, turning several times until blackened on all sides. Place in a deep bowl to catch the juices. Let cool slightly and peel. Place tomatillos in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the color changes, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Now you are ready to puree the ingredients in sequence, working in batches according to the capacity of your blender and adding chicken stock as necessary to facilitate the blending.
Place as many of the drained chiles and toasted spices in a blender as it can comfortably accommodate, with about 1 cup chicken stock. Process until smoothly pureed, adding more stock if necessary. Repeat with remaining chiles and spices. With a wooden spoon or pusher, force the puree through a sieve into a bowl; discard whatever will not go through. Scrape the puree into a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven; rinse out blender to wash away any hard or fibrous bits.
Puree sesame seeds and nuts in several batches with just as much chicken stock as necessary to help free the blades. Add to the chile puree. Puree dried fruit and sherry along with sauteed plantain in the same manner, adding a little stock if necessary. Add to the saucepan with chile and nuts. Puree onion, garlic, tomatoes, and tomatillos (they may not need added stock). Add to other purees in saucepan. Coarsely chop the chocolate and add to pureed ingredients.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce
continued in part 2