Brownies. Truffles. Cakes. Cupcakes. Chocolate is the epitome of desserts and all things sweet. However, this rich ingredient wasn’t always a sweet treat. In fact, it started out as a bitter, savory drink. For this weeks article on Chocolate and Culture I thought we should post something about the savory side of chocolate. Chocolate first appeared in a savory ingredient during the Mesoamerican culture, around 2000 years ago. Before the development of sweet chocolate, the Mayans served drinks made from cacao seeds in paste form spiced with water, cornmeal, chile peppers and such.
After the Europeans began adding sugar to chocolate in the 1500s, the savory tradition of chocolate did not perish. European chefs found much culinary potential in the rich, bittersweet flavor of chocolate and the luscious color it adds to food and began incorporating it in savory dishes. One of the earliest European use of chocolate in savory food is in agrodolce: an Italian sauce made with wine or vinegar.
What makes chocolate good for savory dishes? Chocolate contain cocoa butter that adds a luscious texture to food and cocoa solids add flavor and color. Chocolate lovers know that this potent ingredient pairs well with many flavors as well, may they be deep in taste or light and citrusy. This makes chocolate a flexible ingredient fit for traditional dishes and adventurous experiments in food and flavor. For a more conservative approach, adding a bit of cocoa powder either to the beginning or end of a recipe will add a note of chocolate to the dish and, without a doubt, a hint of sophistication and complexity in the overall taste.
Today, amidst the countless sweet desserts that give chocolate its undeniable fame in the culinary world, savory dishes are continually incorporating this ingredient to make unique and exciting dishes. Countless chefs nowadays continue to appreciate the depth and texture it brings to savory creations; using chocolate in traditional ways such as the Mexican mole or more unconventional dishes such as a vegetable and bean chili.
This summer, people all across the country are celebrating the hot weather with even hotter cookouts. Commemorating summer and good food are the food lovers with their 21st Erie’s Wild Rib Cook Off and Music Festival™. Inspired by the ultimate summer savory dish—barbeque—here’s a savory recipe made even richer with chocolate.
Recipe for Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary (adapted from Bon Appétit’s Bruce Aidelis and Nancy Oakes)
- 1/4 cup diced pancetta (Italian bacon; about 1 1/2 ounces) or bacon
- 6 pounds bone-in short ribs
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped drained canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 very large fresh thyme sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons shaved or grated bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Heat heavy large pot over medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and sauté until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta or baconto paper towels to drain.
- Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown ribs in drippings in pot over medium-high heat until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate.
- Add onions and next 4 ingredients to pot. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add wine. Boil uncovered until liquid is reduced by half, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes.
- Add broth, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and pancetta. Return ribs to pot, cover partially, and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and simmer until rib meat is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours longer.
- Transfer ribs to plate; discard bay leaf. Spoon fat from surface of sauce. Boil sauce until beginning to thicken, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
- Add chocolate, cocoa powder, and rosemary; stir until chocolate melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return ribs to pot. Simmer to rewarm, about 5 minutes.