My favorite chemical is theobromine, that magic happy elixir inside chocolate that makes you feel good *all over*!
When I get that first rush, I’ve been known to purr “caCAO!” like Lightning McQueen in Cars. Only my pal Lovi tops me in chocolatelyness by grating 100% cacao mass over her granola. I love her.
When the wonderful folks at Hershey and Scharffen Berger offered to send me some samples and information about their “Chocolate Adventure” recipe contest of course I said Yesyesyes and waited for the FedEx guy to come.
You know what happened, of course. On the expected delivery date, I was just out of the shower when my intercom rang! I scrambled to dry off and get something on. The FedEx guy knocked on the door, he needed a signature naturally, and I said, “Just a second, I just got out of the shower!” in my froggy deeper-than-Demi-Moore-not-quite-over-the-flu voice.
“Oooo!” he said through the door, “that sounds goooood.” (!!!!)
Gee, maybe I should try to keep this voice.
Anyway, back to the chocolate, I plopped the box on my bed, grabbed my mini-Swiss and opened the box like it was Christmas morning. Under the peanuts was nestled a chocolate-brown box with the Scharffen Berger Seal, oooo, pretty.
(Photo taken on my kitchen table, naturally)
Inside the box was a treasure trove of chocolates, four large spice boxes with some of the “adventure ingredients”, a velvet bag with a great 2 gig flash drive and the contest rules.
(a peek inside)
Matt Armendariz, who blogs at MattBites, is one of the contest judges and his great explanation of the contest is here. Scharffen Berger is challenging anyone to create either a savory or sweet recipe using their chocolate and one or more of the 16 adventure ingredients, such as coffee, smoked sea salt, paprika, papaya, rice powder, ginger, cacao nibs, and more. The prize is $10,000 per category. Tempted?
(clockwise from the top: black-eyed peas, crystalized gingerroot, bitter-sweet smoked Spanish paprika, applewood smoked salt)
Gaze upon the yumminess and let your imagination flow….
(look at all this chocolate! Thank you Scharffen Berger!)
I am not sure I will be entering the contest but I do plan to experiment with the chocolate and the “adventure ingredients” starting tomorrow, with Becky Selengut’s braised short ribs with coffee and chocolate, as blogged by Patricia Eddy.
All I can think of to say is caCAO!!
Update: the ribs were delicious and subtly spiced. I adapted it to the ingredients I had on hand and a few tweaks of my own.
Since I used the crock pot, I reduced the tomatoes by half, and added only one cup of Blue Bottle espresso. I used two dried ancho chiles as that is all I had, and a bay leaf, and cooked them on high for 6 hours. I then chilled the meat in the sauce overnight and removed all the fat.
The next day, after the ribs had reheated to a gently simmer, I corrected the seasoning (adding salt, pepper, paprika, cumin to taste) and folded in a shattered bar of Scharffen Berger’s 83% cacao.
It was fascinating to see how the addition of chocolate completely thickened the sauce. I was initially concerned that the sauce would be too thick as I had reduced the cooking liquids by half. However, the crockpot does not evaporate liquids during cooking so the juices were quite thin. The chocolate changed all of that and the end result was a thick, rich, glossy, spiced sauce akin to a mole but more elegant in texture.
I served the short ribs in a deep earthenware bowl, topped with sweet, juicy tomatoes and a handful of cilantro, and served sour cream on the side. Accompaniments: sour cream mashed Yukon gold potatoes, blanched green beans in a lemon tarragon vinagrette and juice (Menage a Trois red table wine), and milk for the kiddies. My dear friends were kind enough to let me experiment on them, and even the kiddies ate their portion and kindly refrained from making retching noises at the table. They are not a fan of the mole concept, whereas I want to try a more traditional mole next time, perhaps Rick Bayless’ recipe?
My deep thanks to Becky and Patricia for sharing the recipe I based my dish upon!