“All chili powder’s pretty much the same, right?”

or, Robert Beltran is Trying to Kill Me

A while ago I was Googling God only knows what and stumbled on the fact that there exists , written by Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager. We’re in the middle of the show (it’s the last Star Trek series we have left), and I’m really starting to get into it, so this was a nerdilicious combination of two of my favourite things.

After e-mailing home all excited (“OMG LOOK”) I found the library’s copy waiting for me when I got off work. Despite some of the hilariously negative reviews on Amazon I skimmed through the whole thing and found a number of recipes that seemed worth trying. Among them was a chicken mole recipe attributed to Robert Beltran (Chakotay) that was not only very very simple, and required no chocolate (despite liking hot-chili chocolate candy just fine I’m dubious about chocolate in a savory sauce), but involved a 1:3 ratio of chili powder and chicken. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

The brand recommended in the recipe isn’t found here in the Midwest so when I was in an Indian grocery store for other reasons, I found a nice big bag of chili powder to substitute. Even if I were making half of the recipe, it’d still call for 8 ounces of powder, which is a lot larger than you find in the average grocery store.

So while home alone one weekend (I’m the only one in the household who likes spicy foods, though there was that one incident with the cat rolling in cayenne pepper as if it were catnip) I roasted a chicken breast, stripped the meat, did the math, and got to work.

First of all, even three ounces of chili powder is a lot.

a large pile of chili powder in a bowl

3 ounces of chili powder

It’s so much that I had to use a cereal bowl to contain it all. I got a little concerned.

When I got to the point of actually having a sauce, it was the same colour as paprika, a bright and Southwestish brick red. It looked dangerously hot. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I soldiered on. I made a pan of sourdough cornbread that refused to rise. I added the chicken, let it simmer, then tasted the sauce that was stuck to the fork.

Dear god.

A pan of bright-red mole sauce.

There’s a reason we use red to mean “danger.”

I made some rice to eat it with, and tried my best.

To that point the spiciest food I’d ever had was a Thai green mango salad that I thought was going to make me throw up in front of a room full of people I don’t really know. This was similar to that; unlike a lot of the hot Asian foods I’ve had, which have amazing flavours as a reward for surviving the pain, this just tasted like straight chili powder. I’ve never actually been a big fan of plain chili powder.

Mixing sour cream into the sauce didn’t help either. After giving it a few days in the fridge to mellow, a 50/50 blend of plain Greek yogurt and the chicken mole wasn’t palatable either, so I gave up. In the interim, a friend who lives in Texas says that she finds Indian chili powder to be hotter than the Mexican/Texan kind, so maybe my substitution was the killer. I may try it again someday just to see, or I may not.

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