By Lori Grossman
Okay, chocoholics, listen up. Did you know that chocolate can be used in main dishes?
For those of you who immediately thought of mole sauce, you're on the right track. More on that later. You've earned brownie (no pun intended) points. But mole sauce is only the beginning. We're talking savory dishes here.
"Savory" is actually a British culinary term. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many courses were served at large dinners. Some were savory and some sweet. No formal dinner would have been complete without a savory course to end the meal. Today, a savory is usually cheese, and is offered as an alternative to a sweet dessert. If we go back to how chocolate first started showing up in savory dishes, it all began with the ancient Mayan civilization.
Chocolate comes from cacao trees that grow only within 20 degrees of the equator. The trees produce pods containing about 40 beans in each pod. Once harvested, the hard work begins. Beans must ferment inside the pods, and then are removed to dry before they can be ground into what we know as cocoa. Mayans roasted and ground the beans, then mixed the powder with chilies, herbs, and wild honey. This drink was offered in tribute to rulers and placed in their tombs. Eventually, the beans were used as money.
By the time the Spanish conquerors arrived, the Aztecs were using what they called cacahuatl (or cocoa water) as an aphrodisiac. One chronicler wrote that the emperor Montezuma "faced his harem of 200 wives only after drinking 50 chalices of spiced cacao." Another Spaniard noted "It is the habit among Central American Indians to rub each other all over with pulpy cocoa mass and then nibble at each other." Those Aztecs sure knew how to have fun!
How to use your chocolate is up to you, but you might start by trying these recipes.
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Authentic Mexican desserts at MexGrocer.com
Chocolate-Dipped StrawberriesAustinites arrange their schedules around the availability of these special treats.
Capitol Punishment ChiliThis recipe was awarded the top prize at the 1980 International Chili Society annual cook-off. I know it's not your usual Texas chili, but try it anyway.
In a large skillet, fry the onions and garlic in the canola oil. Add the beef cubes, ground beef, and ground pork; brown and remove from the heat. Drain the excess fat. Add the meat to the seasoning mixture. Stir well and cook, partially covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes at a low boil.
Remove from the heat and add the masa harina mixture (this acts as a thickening agent). Cook 2 minutes more over low heat. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Cocoa-Spice Topped SalmonA tasty way to eat healthy.
Whisk together sugar, dry mustard, cinnamon, paprika, cocoa, chili powder, cumin, pepper, and salt. Coat both sides of the salmon fillet with remaining olive oil. Place in grill pan skin-side down. Sprinkle generously with the cocoa-spice mixture and pat down. If you have some of the mixture left over, store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Mole Poblano de Guajalote (Turkey in Chili and Chocolate Sauce)This is Mexico's most famous dish. It originated in the state of Puebla, but is served all over the country.
To make the mole, remove stems and seeds from the ancho, mulato, and pasilla chilies. Tear them into pieces, put them in a bowl, and pour hot water over them to barely cover (about 2 cups). Let stand for about 30 minutes, turning the chilies from time to time. In a blender or food processor, combine the chilies and their soaking water with the onions, garlic, tomatoes, and toast. Blend the mixture until it forms a paste. Do this in two batches, if necessary. Transfer the paste to a bowl.
Rinse out and dry the container of the blender or food processor. Add the almonds, peanuts, raisins, 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, the coriander seeds, anise, cloves, and the pieces of cinnamon stick. Blend well. Mix thoroughly with the chili paste.
Measure the lard left in the skillet (from the turkey) and add enough to bring the quantity up to 4 tablespoons. Add the chili paste and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the mixture to the saucepan or casserole the turkey was cooked in. Stir in 2 cups of the reserved turkey stock and the chocolate, cut into pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add more turkey stock if necessary to make the sauce the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in sugar, if desired.
Add turkey pieces to sauce and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Arrange the turkey and sauce in a serving dish. In a small skillet, toast the remaining sesame seeds and sprinkle over the turkey. Serve with tortillas, rice, beans, and guacamole. Makes 10 servings.
And you thought chocolate was just for dessert!
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