The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has predicted that chocolate will make its way onto menus through to 2014, but not just for dessert.
The NCA predicts that America’s favorite flavor, chocolate, will be bursting onto the usually savory part of the menus, into main courses and appetizers. But then thousands of years ago the ancient Mayans and Aztecs were grinding the seeds from the cacao tree and mixing them with spices for a special savory drink called xocoatl served to royalty and gods. Still today, the Mexicans maintain the savory link with their famous mole sauce. Mole sauce is classically served with chicken and incorporates tomatoes, spices, chilies, and dark chocolate is added for a rich, velvety but savory sauce.
Chocolate used in savory dishes needs to be high quality unsweetened dark chocolate that is high in cocoa solids. The slightly acidic bitterness of dark chocolate can help bring out other flavors and balance a dish. Whisking in chocolate to finish a sauce, as we often do with butter, gives a smooth and silky sheen. Cocoa powder can also be used to thicken a sauce, though using chocolate in a savory dish can be a real challenge in terms of balancing the sweet and bitter flavors.
There are many European game recipes featuring chocolate. The complex flavors of fine dark chocolate complements the rich ‘gamey’ flavor that not everyone finds to their taste. The Italians have an ancient chocolate and hazelnut soup and have also been adding chocolate to their pastas, risottos, and polenta for centuries.
Rubs for meat, containing cocoa, are commercially available but are also easily made. A mixture of equal amounts of unsweetened natural cocoa, ground espresso and porcini mushroom powder rubbed into a leg of lamb produce heavenly aromas while roasting. A South-Western bean dish with chipotle chilies and a smattering of chocolate is another recipe that could be enhanced. Why not glaze your pork with chocolate sauce or make chocolate vinaigrette for drizzling over a goat’s cheese salad? Making a rich barbecue sauce incorporating chocolate is another delicious coating for sticky spare ribs.
Pairing savory ingredients with chocolate can be a tricky business but that’s how chocolate originally started out.
Photos courtesy of flickr - portal and friends, LDHNY, ostwestwind and S Farnworth