Cooking with Chocolate

Aug 3

This weekend we enjoyed hosting our 3rd Annual Chocolate Taster Menu. When most people think about chocolate, they automatically assume dessert. However, in this particular case, we wanted to stretch peoples imaginations and preconceptions about chocolate and use them in totally different ways to enhance the flavors of savory foods as well. As such, we worked out a menu that would take advantage of the beautiful pairing of chocolate with spicy foods and coffee. Two of the recipes we came up with were Chipotle Chocolate Empanadas and a Spicy Tomato Chocolate Soup. Historically speaking, Mayans and Aztecs used chocolate in this type of savory application frequently so I took the inspiration of these cultures and applied them to Mediterranean staples, like empanadas and tomato soup. Empanadas are typically a meat filling with cumin, paprika and raisins and a common dish served in Spanish Tapas. I twisted this by using sweet spices, like allspice and cinnamon, adding chipotles for heat, and chocolate to round out the flavor. I served this with a Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli and Balsamic Reduction and it was delicious. The soup took the concept of an Italian style tomato soup and switched it up by applying North African flavors like Cumin, Paprika and Harissa, which is a North African Chilli Paste. To mellow out the spice, I added the chocolate and it was served with some Queso Fresco, which is a Mexican fresh Sheeps milk cheese. Try these recipes out at home. You are sure to enjoy them and have a whole new love for the complexity of chocolate.

Chipotle Chocolate Empanadas

Yields: 36 Empanadas

2 pkgs Puff Pastry, Thawed According to Package Directions
2-3 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Onions, Diced
2-3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 lb Ground Beef
1 lb Ground Pork
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
½ tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Ground Coriander
2 tsps Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Allspice
2-3 Tbl Tomato Paste
1-14 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbl Italian parsley, Chopped
2 Tbl Cilantro, Chopped
¼ cup Dry Vermouth or Dry Sherry
1-2 Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Chopped or To Taste
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
2 Tbl Honey or To Taste
1 Egg
1 Tbl Water
Balsamic Reduction and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli to Garnish

Heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for one minute or until fragrant. Add pork and beef and sauté until browned. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, cinnamon, coriander and allspice. Add parsley, cilantro, tomato paste and chipotles. Add dry vermouth or sherry and diced tomatoes and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add chocolate and melt thoroughly. Add enough honey to create a slightly sweet/savory flavor to taste. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk egg and water together. Dust work surface with flour. Lay one sheet of puff pastry out onto work surface and roll out with a rolling pin until the seams are sealed and the pastry is approx. ¼” thick. Using a knife or pizza wheel, cut sheet into 9 equal squares. Fill each square with approx. 1 1/2 Tbl filling and seal using egg wash. Press edges of pastry together with fingers and fold over to seal into a little pocket. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Brush with more egg wash and continue with remaining pastry sheets until all the filling is used up or all the pastry is used up. If you have additional filling left over, use leftovers combined with pasta. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for approx. 20 mins or until the empanadas are brown and puffed. Serve hot garnished with Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli and Balsamic Reduction.

Balsamic Reduction

Yields: ½ Cup

1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered until reduced by half. Cool and transfer to a squirt bottle for easy garnishing.

Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli

Yields: Approx. 1 Cup

1 Head Garlic
Olive Oil
3-4 Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
3/4 Cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
¼ Cup Buttermilk

Remove as much of the outer paper of the garlic as possible. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and seal tightly in foil. Place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 45 mins. Remove from oven and cool completely. Squeeze roasted garlic into a food processor. Add tomatoes, mayo and season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

Spicy Tomato & Chocolate Soup

Yields: Approx. 6-8 Servings

2 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1 Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Carrots, Peeled and Diced
2 Celery Stalks, Diced
1 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Sliced
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
3 Tbl Harissa (North African Chili Paste)
2 tsps Hungarian Paprika
2 tsps ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Coriander
½-3/4 cup Dry Sherry or White Wine
1-28 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
4 Cups Chicken Broth
¼ Cup Cilantro, Chopped
¼ Cup Italian Parsley, Chopped
3-4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
2 Tbl Honey or to Taste
Queso Fresco, Goat Cheese or Crème Fraiche to Garnish

Heat oil and butter in a stock pot over medium high heat until butter melts. Add onion and sauté until translucent, approx. 5 mins. Add garlic, carrots, celery and sun dried tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, harissa, paprika, cumin and coriander. Saute for a couple of minute to toast spices and soften vegetables. Add wine and continue cooking on high until all of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 mins or until the vegetables are tender. Pass soup through a food mill to puree and remove any large particles. Return soup to pot and place over low heat. Add parsley and cilantro. Add chocolate and enough honey to balance acidity. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot, garnished with queso fresco, fresh goat cheese or crème fraiche.

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