Chicken mole

Subtitled: Mole – 1, Julie’s hand – 0

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a recipe for chicken mole. She even pegged me in the lj-cut, so I knew I had to try it. I used pretty much the recipe as written, except I substituted back the bell pepper instead of the poblano and the cloves instead of cardamom. I, too, quadrupled the amount of sauce so that I have lots of leftovers. I didn’t have any chili powder on hand, so I used this blend in pretty much the quantities given.

Result: it’s like chocolate, but not sweet. Very tasty, and very filling.

I also made a side of glazed carrots and string beans, which was also a first for me. Glaze was about 2.5 tbsp each of margarine and brown sugar, and probably about a quarter cup of orange juice. Turned out very tasty, though I’m not sure I’d serve it with the mole again. The contrast was just too strong between the sweet of the glaze and the bitter of the mole.

But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to find out why the subtitle of this post is, “Mole – 1, Julie’s hand – 0.”

Some of you may remember a few weeks ago that I became enamored with a cooking site called Rouxbe. One of the few free lessons on the site is on pan frying in a stainless-steel pan. Since I was, in fact, using stainless steel for this recipe, I decided to test out what I’d learned.

One way you can tell when a stainless steel pan is hot enough for frying is by dropping 1/8 tsp of water into it and seeing what happens. At the proper temperature, it should turn into a little ball and bounce around the pan. I wanted to try this. So I filled up a ramekin with water, took out my 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, and starting dropping in water at regular intervals. I passed the “rapid evaporation” point. I passed the “little beads” stage. I never actually saw the “single bead” stage, but I did see the “many beads”, and I had completely forgotten that this meant the pan was too hot.

So I put in the oil. Olive oil, to be precise, which was probably the wrong oil for this particular method because it doesn’t have a high smoking point. And, indeed, it started to smoke immediately. I remembered that this meant that the oil was no good and I’d have to start again when the pan had cooled a bit, and I hunted for somewhere to put the used oil.

And here, my friends, I admit my stupidity. In the panic of seeing the smoking pan in front of me (and a rapidly-filling-with-smoke kitchen), I searched for a small bowl. And the one that was most readily available was the ramekin that held the water for my “is the pan hot enough” test. So I dumped out the water in to the sink, and here’s where I made my great mistake: I did not wipe it dry. Still holding the pot in one hand, I dumped the remaining hot oil into the still-slightly-watery ramekin.

There was a mighty explosion of oil and water! Mighty, I say!

My t-shirt has now been relegated to the “painting shirts” category, and my right hand got spattered with hot oil. The ramekin, thankfully, did not explode. And my hand will heal. It’s somewhat red and spotted now, but it’s not too bad, all things considered.

Once I let the pan cool off a bit, I restarted and browned the chicken properly. I must say, it was probably the prettiest browned chicken I’ve ever made. Truly, truly beautiful crust. So there’s definitely something to this “let the pan heat up properly” thing. On the other hand, oil and water do not mix. Really, they don’t. My hand tells me so. Let this be a lesson to you all.


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