It’s time to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to cooking and chocolate … for far too long, “make mine chocolate” has referred to dessert. Limiting your chocolate culinary exposure to the last course of the meal means that you are missing out on all of the sensational savory dishes that can be made using unsweetened chocolate bars (for sauces)and powders (for rubs). Let’s start with something simple, that doesn’t involve melting anything. Adding unsweetened cocoa powder to a rub – preferably using the best Dutch processed product that you can lay your hands on –adds depth and intensity to chicken, beef, pork or fish. Use the recipes below as a jumping off point, but keep in mind that a rub is something you really can’t get wrong. After you’ve worked with a few of these, feel free to experiment. Add more heat, more sweet, or whatever unique flavor you’d like your creation to have.
• Combine 1 Tablespoon white peppercorns with a tablespoon of whole coriander in a peppermill or mortar and pestle; grind to a fine powder. Mix with 4 Tablespoons cinnamon, 3 ½ Tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, 4 Tablespoons ground sea salt, 2 teaspoons fresh nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Rub mixture on pork tenderloins, chicken breasts, or ribs before browning, then cooking.
• This rub is particular good when preparing filet mignon. Combine two tablespoons cocoa powder with one tablespoon each of cumin, sugar, and cinnamon, half teaspoon of cayenne and white pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder and salt. Coat both sides of meat before broiling or grilling. Leftover rub can be kept for future use.
• This intoxicating combination of the flavors of coffee and chocolate for a nice blend of bitter, spicy and sweet. Combine 6 Tablespoons ground espresso powder with two tablespoons each of kosher salt, brown sugar, and sweet paprika. Add two teaspoons each of black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, and one teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and cocoa powder. This rub will keep for up to six months in an airtight container and is fabulous on steaks.
Once you’ve mastered the cocoa rub and have come up with your own special concoction, consider wrapping it up in a mason jar with a festive ribbon for your gourmet friends … after all, you don’t want to keep the “chocolate for dinner” secret to yourself!