When Ana Guerrero Robertson arrived in El Paso in 1928, she could not have guessed that ahead lay a long career as a restaurateur in Los Angeles. Robertson was only 9 years old then and aware of little beyond the boundaries of her hometown, Huanusco, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.
Ten years later, family members headed by her mother, Aurora Guerrero, started a little stand called Cielito Lindo in Olvera Street. In those days, the stand had no kitchen, so they cooked the food at their home on Ord Street in downtown Los Angeles and took it to the stand via streetcar.
Later, Robertson branched off on her own with a restaurant called Anita's at 101 N. Broadway. That property was torn down to make way for the State Building on 1st Street, now also demolished.
Next, Robertson joined her mother in operating Las Anitas on Olvera Street. They chose a site in the basement of a building known as Italian Hall. A tortilleria had formerly occupied the premises, Robertson recalls.
Las Anitas is now an Olvera Street fixture, more than 30 years old. Aurora Guerrero, 86, has retired and lives with Robertson in Pasadena. Across the way, Cielito Lindo still sells taquitos, but they are prepared in a proper kitchen, not at home.
Asked what she would serve for a Cinco de Mayo party, Robertson chose a family recipe for chicken mole from her native Zacatecas. This style of mole is much simpler than Mexico's famous chocolate colored mole poblano. The recipe requires only a handful of ingredients. Robertson sometimes doubles the amount of sauce and uses the extra for enchiladas. As accompaniments, she recommends a tossed salad, refried beans and Mexican rice dotted with colorful vegetables.
MOLE RANCHERO ZACATECANO
Ranch Style Mole from Zacatecas
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut up
4 cloves garlic
5 dried California chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/4 pound lard, vegetable shortening or oil
1/2 cup flour
Place chicken in Dutch oven. Add 1 quart water, the whole onion, 1 clove garlic and season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about one hour.
Meanwhile, combine chiles and 2 cups water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until chiles are tender. Drain chiles and remove stems, veins and seeds, rinsing under running water. Place chiles in blender. Add 3 cloves garlic, the cumin, pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves. Add 1 1/2 cups broth from cooking chicken and season to taste with salt. Cover and blend on high three minutes.
Heat lard or oil in Dutch oven. Add flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly. Add blended mixture, stirring quickly so as not to form lumps. Add remaining chicken stock. Simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring often. Place cooked chicken pieces in sauce and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Makes four servings.