Chocolate is like sex or pizza: Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. There are those who prefer light, refreshing desserts after a big meal, but I think those people are crazy. I always gravitate to the most decadent dessert on the menu, which is usually laden with chocolate. And while I love the stuff, there is nothing sadder than giving or receiving a box of boring chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Each year, men and women shamefully duck into grocery stores and pharmacies to grab a box of assorted chocolates. Because nothing says “I love you” quite like chocolate from a gas station.
I’m not going to suggest cutting chocolate out of Valentine’s Day, but what about combining two things that will impress your significant other more than anything else: chocolate and a home-cooked meal? Over the years, I’ve learned that going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day can be quite an ordeal. Long wait times, overpriced specials and servers who would rather be spending Valentine’s Day with their own significant other than waiting on you. The solution? Make dinner yourself. She/he will love you for it.
Which brings us back to chocolate. Put it in the main course rather than a box. If you’ve tasted a piece of extremely dark chocolate, you know that it has the potential for much more than just dessert. It has an earthy, bitter taste that may be tough to enjoy on its own. But that depth of flavor works quite well in savory dishes. Keep in mind, this is dark, unsweetened chocolate, not wrapped pieces of sugary candy.
While the Olmec Indians are credited with being the first to grow cacao beans as a crop, the beans’ popularity soared after Hernan Cortes brought them back to Spain along with the equipment and knowledge he obtained after conquering Mexico in 1519. From there, chocolate spread throughout Europe. And you can imagine what it did for chocolate sales in 1624 when Johan Franciscus Rauch of Vienna declared chocolate to be a food from the devil that drove humans to be consumed with passion.
The most common savory dish that uses chocolate is Mexican mole. As with any good legend, there are varying stories on why people started using chocolate in mole. The most common is that a group of panicked nuns in Puebla threw together a dish for a visiting archbishop with the few ingredients they had on hand. This included chilies, nuts, bread, spices and, of course, chocolate.
About The Author
Peter Ogburn is a radio and television producer who loves food and cooking for his family. NPR: Kitchen Window