Smashed: Something Called Mole

As part of my food writing duties I have been given “Cooking With the Seasons” by Lesa Heebner to review. Though the review will ultimately be pretty short, I’m still doing some test cooking from the book to see if it’s something worthwhile. Unfortunately, my first experience was not a good one.

I made the Puebla-style Mole Sauce with Chicken Strips recipe from page 118. Or more accurately, made the mole sauce and took the family out for Indian food.

Mole is generally a very complex chile sauce, usually with 20-30 ingredients. Some people focus on the chocolate in many versions of the sauce, but I’ve never had a version where I’ve said “wow, chocolate sauce.” In a good mole, the flavors will be balanced so no one flavor dominates and the heat level can vary from mild to very hot.

Heebner’s mole is scaled down ingredient wise, though it hits most of the categorical high points — chiles, spices, and chocolate. One thing the recipe lacks is a starch for thickening, usually represented by a slice of bread or a day old corn tortilla. Another noticeable difference from other mole recipes is that none of the spices are toasted.

And in the end, these differences matter. The sauce tasted like a cinnamon sauce (my biggest pet peeve with moles!) with a faint background of chicken stock. It had a gritty texture to go along with the taste to start, so I strained it to see if that helped. Nope, can’t say that it did. It just made it a watery cinnamon sauce with a faint background of chicken stock.

We haven’t tested any other recipes yet, but I am fearful.

The upside is that we learned that our 2-yr old likes dal.

Amazon sells Heebner’s cookbook. Check it out here if you dare.


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