Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolate Craze

I don’t know why I’ve had such a writing block with this post. Maybe it’s because every time I think about our chocolate dinner, I go into a post-hypnotic stupor just thinking about it.

Or maybe I’m just being lazy.

I will have to say that I think that Carley and I need to come up with a more creative term for the ‘Dinner of the Month’ thing we do (Carley is the Artist Formerly Known as ‘C’ or ‘Chip’). We’re just enjoying ourselves too much to not give it a better moniker. I’m also thinking we should start inviting people to partake since we seem to make a TON of food between us, and it’s generally only being enjoyed by four people.

While the name thing is floating around waiting to be resolved, I’ll move along to the food. Being February, we opted to go with a chocolate theme. In other words, everything had to have chocolate in it. And while I knew it wouldn’t be a far stretch coming up with main dishes (such as this molé), what I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to come up with the SIDES.

But ultimately, I think we did pretty well.

And no, we didn’t sit down to Oreos and Hershey bars.

I won’t share all of the recipes here, but everything was delicious. Every dish had chocolate in some form but you didn’t get hit over the head with it (other than the desserts, of course, which were no-holds-barred in-your-face chocolate delights). I once heard someone say that if you can get past thinking of chocolate as a candy or dessert and think of it as another spice, then it’s easy to make the transition from sweet to savory.

This was the lineup…

Carley’s Menu (from "Enlightened Chocolate" by Camilla V. Saulsbury)

Cocoa Rubbed Chicken
Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Shrimp and Rice Salad with Chocolate Vinaigrette
Zinfully Chocolate Mousse Cakes (which I don't have photos of, sorry - SOOO good, though!)

Carri’s Menu

Braised Italian Pot Roast
Cocoa Dusted Roasted Potatoes
Butternut Squash with Cacao Nib Vinaigrette
Chocolate Meringues with Nutella and Frangelico Buttercreams (we’ll call this one ‘in development’, so no recipes for now)

OK, first up is the vinaigrette recipe that Carley used to dress this shrimp and rice salad. 

Chocolate Vinaigrette

1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 ½ Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp water
1 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk well to combine.

** Carley tossed this mixture with some cooked shrimp, which she then added to some rice with chopped cucumber, red pepper and mango.

So good!

The chicken was the first thing my eyes gravitated to.  So pretty, and the smell was just amazing!

Cocoa Rubbed Chicken

½ cup chile powder
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 7-lb roasting chicken

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine spices thoroughly in a small bowl. Rub all over chicken, coating well.

Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature of oven to 375° and cook for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the thigh reads 180°.

Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest 10 - 15 minutes before serving.

Zinfully Chocolate Mousse Cakes

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 Tbs flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
¾ cup Zinfandel
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 10 4-oz ramekins with cooking spray and place in a 9 x 13” pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine cocoa powder, flour, salt and ¾ cup of sugar. Add wine, whisking to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Pour liquid mixture over chocolate; stir until chocolate melts. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl add eggs, egg white and remaining ½ cup of sugar. Beat with a mixer at high speed 6 minutes. Gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Divide batter between prepared ramekins.

Bake mousse cakes 23 - 25 minutes or until puffy and set. Serve warm.

Kind of the Italian version of a molé

Braised Italian Pot Roast

About 2 ½ lbs beef pot roast
1/2 bottle of a robust Italian red wine
Clove of garlic
Sprig of rosemary
Cinnamon stick
2 cloves
A few juniper berries
Black peppercorns
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Beef broth
1 oz unsweetened chocolate (90% cacao) or a heaping tsp of unsweetened cocoa

The night before put the wine in a bowl with the garlic and spices. Add the meat and marinate at least 12 hours.

Pour a little olive oil in a casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Remove from pan and add carrot and leek. Sauté until softened and then add the meat. Filter the solids from the wine and add to pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 2 ½ hours, adding a little stock if the liquid evaporates too much. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat and allow the liquid to reduce (about 30 minutes).

Add chocolate and blend with immersion blender.

Cocoa Dusted Roasted Potatoes

1 Tbs cocoa powder
3/4 Tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
3/4 Tbs coarsely ground Kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes
Olive oil to coat

Heat oven to 400º.  Wash potatoes and remove any blemishes.  Dry on paper towels and place on foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. 

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over potatoes and toss.

Place in oven and cook about 20 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cacao Nib Vinaigrette

1 4-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" slices
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1½ tsp cacao nibs, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, finely minced
3 oz thinly sliced pancetta, cooked until crisp and drained
Freshly cut Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 450º.   Line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Lay squash on baking sheet and drizzle with oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and soft

Meanwhile, combine 1/3 cup olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Whisk briskly to combine.  Add cacao nibs and shallot.  Stir to combine.

Pour mixture evenly over squash, tossing gently to coat.  Sprinkle with cooked pancetta and parsley.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. The chocolate dinner was definitely one to remember. Those roasted butternut squash medallions were my favorite...and who knew cocoa could spice potatoes so well?! I agree, we may need to share our event with others...even if it means forfeiting some leftovers :)

  2. LOL! Especially since we always have enough to feed a small battalion!