Chocolate with garlic, meat, and chilies—what is the world coming to? Don’t worry, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, chocolate has been used as a spice in savory dishes for hundreds of years.
Two nuns were making a rushed meal for an unexpected archbishop visiting the convent. The nuns grabbed whatever they could, including a bit of chocolate, and ground everything together in a mortar. They let the mixture simmer until it thickened into a dark sauce, and is enjoyed today as molé.
12 guajillo chiles, roasted, skinned, stemmed, and seeded
3 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
¼ cup lard
1 onion, peeled and sliced
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick of cinnamon, in small pieces
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
¼ cup unsalted peanuts
¼ cup masa (masa de maíz)
1 tsp cocoa powder¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp anise seeds
¼ cup raisins, soaked in water
4 cups chicken broth
1. Heat the lard in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. In a blender, puree the peanuts, then add the oregano, cinnamon, anise, peppercorns, thyme, and cloves and blend with the tomatoes. Puree to make a smooth paste. Add the onions and garlic and puree again. Add chilies to blender and puree into a smooth paste.
2. Add ¾ cup chicken broth to the pot. Make a roux by mixing the masa and ¼ cup of broth. Mix roux into the broth and whisk until smooth. Add pureed ingredients and simmer for 1 hour, covered, and then simmer uncovered, until sauce has thickened.
This sauce can be used on chicken, beef, vegetables, or other molé dishes.
Yield: 5–6 cups
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Mama Call’s Cincinnati Chili
Unlike other chili, Cincinnati chili is eaten on spaghetti noodles or hot dogs. Though some mistake it for spaghetti sauce, the cocoa powder and cinnamon give it a distinct flavor.
3 lbs ground beef
2 cups water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp beef bouillon granules (or 2 cubes)
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp powdered/minced garlic
4 tbsp powdered/minced onion
½–1 tsp cumin
¼–½ tsp cayenne
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1. Crumble and lightly brown 3 lbs of ground beef. Skim off all the drippings, setting them aside to cook before discarding them.
2. Move the cooked ground beef to a large stockpot. Add everything but the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes.
4. Serve on top of spaghetti noodles or on hot dogs and buns. (This recipe is enough for about 2 lbs. of spaghetti or 16 hot dogs.) Top with kidney beans, chopped onions, cheese, and oyster crackers.
Serves: 12–15 servings
Total time: 1 hour
Combining chocolate and fruit with chilies and herbs, this dish is a delightful blend of savory, spicy, and sweet ingredients.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green onions, sliced ¼ inch
3 pounds chicken breasts
3 Valencia oranges, zest and juice
2–3 jalapeños, chopped and seeded
2 dried ancho chilies, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 oz 70% cacao dark chocolate, broken into pieces
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. In a large heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high for 1 minute. Cook garlic and green onions until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Then, brown chicken breasts on each side, about 5 minutes.
3. Add Valencia orange juice and zest, jalapeños, dried chilies, coriander seeds, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to low boil, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Place skillet in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and place in a bowl, covering it with aluminum foil while you finish the sauce.
6. Add chocolate pieces to the sauce in the skillet and stir until well blended. This will make a rich dark gravy. Place the chicken back in the skillet, spooning sauce over each piece.
7. Serve with rice and black beans.
Serves: 4 servings
Total time: 1 hour
Pasta with Sage and Chocolate
Since the sixteenth century, chocolate has been used in a range of Italian cooking, from pasta to meat dishes. In a savory dish, dark chocolate is used more as a spice, and the strong flavor adds a nutty nuance that can be perceived even against flavor bullies like garlic and onion.
1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter
4 shallots, finely minced
20 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or other Parmesan cheese
1–2 ounces Venchi Chocaviar bits, or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper or crushed red pepper, to taste
1. Prepare the packaged or freshly made pasta.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and sauté the shallots and sage leaves for about 8 minutes, or until the butter is a golden brown.
3. Toss the pasta with the sage-shallot butter and about ¼ cup of the pasta’s cooking water. Season with pepper.
4. Serve topped with the cheese and a generous sprinkling of Chocaviar or grated chocolate. Garnish with sage leaves.
Serves: 6 servings
Total time: 15 minutes
—Robert V. Faulkner and Thomas Call
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