By Katie Scarvey
Over the holidays, someone gave my daughters some dark chocolate flavored with chile flakes.
It might sound like a strange pairing, but it’s actually an ancient one, part of authentic regional Mexican cuisine.
As the chocolate struck our palates, we waited for the final kick, unsure of whether we would like it or not.
It was actually quite good. We noticed that because the chile flakes add such a punch to the rich, dark chocolate, we felt satisfied with less. And when it comes to chocolate, less is a very good thing.
Chefs are having fun experimenting with the dynamic duo of chile and cocoa. The McCormick Spice people have noticed and have included the pairing in their Flavor Forecast for 2008 ó which predicts the tastes that will “shape the way we eat in the coming year.” (Other pairings predicted to be popular this year are orange peel and natural wood; allspice and exotic meats; oregano and heirloom beans; vanilla bean and cardamom; coriander and coconut water; lemon grace and lychee; red curry and masa.)
“I love the complex flavors and textures that both cocoa and chile provide,” says Graham Elliot Bowles, Chef de Cuisine at Avenues, The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago.
Except for the chili con carne recipe, which is from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook,” the following recipes are courtesy of McCormick.
Braised Mole Beef Tacos
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, well-trimmed, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
a C. chopped onion
a C. water
1 C. beef broth
1/3 C. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. ancho chile pepper
a tsp. chipotle chile pepper
a tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano leaves
o tsp. ground cumin
o tsp. salt
1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate, broken in half
12 corn tortillas (6-inch)
Mexican crema, creme fraiche or sour cream
Mexican queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled
Chopped fresh cilantro
Toasted slivered almonds
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or saucepot on medium high heat. Add half of the beef; brown on all sides. Repeat with remaining beef. Remove beef; set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in the same pot on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 3 minutes. Add water; stir to loosen browned bits in bottom of pan. Add beef, beef broth, tomato paste and seasonings; mix well. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chocolate. Simmer, uncovered, an hour or so until beef is tender and sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.
Brush both sides of tortillas lightly with remaining tablespoon oil. cook each tortilla in nonstick skillet on medium heat one minute per side or until tortilla is slightly crisp but still pliable. Drain on paper towels. Spoon about o cup beef mixture into center of each tortilla. Top with desired garnishes. Fold and serve.
Makes six servings.
Cocoa Chile Pork Ribso C. firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 a tsp. chipotle chile pepper
a tsp. cinnamon (or regular cinnamon)
3 pounds pork baby back ribs
1/4 C. apple juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, cocoa powder, garlic salt, chipotle chile pepper, and cinnamon in small bowl. Reserve one tablespoon spice mixture for basting sauce. Rub remaining spice mixture on ribs until well-coated. Place ribs in single layer on foil-lined roasting pan. Cover with foil.
Bake one hour or until meat starts to pull away from bones. Meanwhile, for basting sauce, mix apple juice, tomato paste and reserved one tablespoon spice mixture in small bowl.
Grill ribs over medium high heat one to two minutes per side or until heated through and evenly browned, brushing with basting sauce.
Makes six servings.
Mexican Hot Chocolate ‘Cup’ Cakes with Cocoa Whipped Cream1 C. flour
1 C. granulated sugar, divided
8 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ancho chile pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
o tsp. salt
a C. milk
o C. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 C. boiling water
1 o C. heavy cream
o C. confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray 8 (6-ounce) oven-proof coffee cups or ramekins with no-stick cooking spray with flour or grease and flour cups. Place on large baking sheet.
Mix flour, ? cup of the granulated sugar, 4 tablespoons of the cocoa powder, baking powder, chile pepper, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Stir in milk, oil and one teaspoon of the vanilla. Batter will be stiff. Spoon evenly into prepared cups. Mix remaining cup granulated sugar and two tablespoons of the cocoa powder in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Spoon two tablespoons boiling water into each cup. Do not stir.
Bake 20 minutes or until tops are dry to the touch and toothpick inserted into centers comes out almost clean. Cool cups slightly on wire rack.
Beat cream and confectioners’ sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add remaining two tablespoons cocoa powder and one teaspoon vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form. Serve “cup” cakes warm with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired.
Makes 8 servings.
nnnFrom “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook,” this is a recipe for rich Texas chili, with no beans.
My daughter and my husband made this last weekend, downsizing the recipe by about half since we didn’t think the three of us needed five pounds of chili. The preparation was a bit time-consuming, but the chili was fantastic. Its hot, smoky sweetness is downright addictive.
The original recipe says the chocolate is optional, but we felt that the chocolate was a necessary component, adding just the right note of rich sweetness. We found ourselves returning to the pot too too many times.
The Lee Brothers suggest pairing this chili with wedges of corn bread and garnishing with fresh avocado and sour cream.
Russwood Circle Chili Con Carne
5 pounds ground beef, chuck or round
1 a tsp. salt, plus more to taste
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
o pound slab bacon or 3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
6 whole dried guajillo chiles, stems trimmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
4 ancho chiles, stems trimmed seeded and torn into pieces
1 C. beef broth
2 1/2 pounds yellow onions, peeled
12 cloves garlic, husks removed
2 tsp. olive oil
2 28-ounce cans chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/4 C. semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 C. chopped green onionPlace the ground beef in a large bowl and season with one teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper ( you don’t need to mix seasonings into the meat).
Scatter the diced bacon in a 6-quart stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. With a wooden spoon, move the pieces around until the bacon is firm and barely crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve in a small bowl. Add the torn chile pieces to the bacon fat in batches and gently toast until they discolor and release some of their fragrance, about 30 seconds. Remove and reserve in the bowl with the bacon.
Working with 1 1/4 pound batches, add the beef to the pot and cook stirring to break it up, until the beef is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove and reserve in the large bowl. Repeat until all beef has been cooked. add the beef broth to the pot and using a wooden spoon, stir in tight circles, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. When the broth boils, pour it over the bowl of chiles and bacon. Submerge the chiles and let stand for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat beneath the stockpot and return the reserved beef to it. Place the yellow onions and garlic in a 9- by 13-inch roasting pan and drizzle the olive oil over them. Shower them with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and turn them with a serving spoon until they are evenly coated with the oil. Place the pan under a broiler, three to four inches from the flame or heating element and broil until the onions are nicely charred, about 8 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves by squeezing them at the step end with tongs, or let cool and peel by hand. Transfer half the garlic and half the onions to a food processor; add one can tomatoes and their juice and process to a smooth puree, about a minute. Pour the puree into the pot with the beef, than process the remaining garlic and onions with the remaining tomatoes and add to the pot.
Place the reserved bacon, chilies and beef broth in the process bowl, you do not need to wash it, and process to a smooth puree about a minute. Add half the chile puree to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Turn the meat to medium and heat the chili. When the surface begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low, partially cover and simmer gently, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking until the chili has thickened and darkened to a chocolate brown about an hour. Add the chocolate and stir to distribute them. When they have melted completely taste the chili and adjust seasonings to taste with salt, pepper and more chile puree. Simmer gently for an hour more, partially covered, stirring every 15 minutes, until the chili is very thick. Taste again and add salt and pepper if desired.
For optimal flavor, let the chili cure in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then reheat over low heat. Garnish with green onions. Serves 12.
Chile Chocolate Brownies
According to the McCormick Web site, these brownies have “bold flavor with a pleasant warmth, but not too much heat.” Simple but impressive when topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Makes 16 servings.
1 package chocolate brownie mix (family-size)
1 1/2 tsp. ancho chile pepper
1/2 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
a tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 C. chocolate chips or chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package, stirring in ancho and chipotle chile peppers, cinnamon and vanilla with dry mix. Gently stir chocolate chips into batter. Spread in greased 9-inch square baking pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in pan. Cut into 16 squares.
Serve with caramel sauce and/or whipped cream, if desired.
Test Kitchen Tip: For easy clean-up, line pan with foil with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Use foil handles to remove baked dessert from pan. Place on cutting board and cut into bars.
Calories per serving: 260
By Katie Scarvey