Health & Medical Eating & Food

Cooking Tips: Fun Dinner Dishes Using Chocolate

Chocolate is not a sweet by itself.  It is bitter and earthy, which is why it pairs so effortlessly with coffee.  It is deep and robust with lots of round flavors and high notes.  It can be used to temper sweetness or to bring out or round out flavors in a dish that lacks depth.  It can add both color and flavor to a dish, and it can be a secret ingredient, adding punch and locking the other flavors together.  When using chocolate, or cocoa, in savory dishes, keep its qualities in mind and use lots of creativity and daring.  You'll undoubtedly come up with some really fun dinner dishes using chocolate, and you'll be able to impress your friends with your bravery and culinary skills.

Chocolate in bread:

When adding cocoa to a bread recipe, substitute like you would for whole wheat flour or honey, knowing the end product will be denser and more chewy.  You can compensate for that quality or show it off, depending on the result you desire.  Chocolate pairs well with butter, chili, lavender, mint, and other aromatics in bread.  Try a chocolate lavender bread with honey butter by substituting 1/8 of the flour in your favorite white bread recipe with cocoa, adding dried lavender flowers, and adding food-grade lavender essential oil just before baking.  A chocolate bread would make a wonderful base for a bread stuffing (such as one you would serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas), French toast, or a Monte Cristo sandwich.

Chocolate in Chili:

Cayenne pepper and cocoa were made for each other.  Chili cuts the bitterness in the chocolate and brings every one of its flavor notes out to play.  That is why Mexican hot chocolate is such a spectacular drink.  However, when used in a savory meat or bean chili, cocoa can disappear into the tomato, smoke, and savory flavors of the dish and simply make everything rounder and deeper.  The next time you're cooking chili or any other dish with tomato, chili powder, or cayenne and it is missing something, try adding up to three tablespoons of cocoa powder to make the dish really stand out.  You can even call it chocolate chili and see which of your friends are brave enough to try it out.  Cocoa pairs readily with bacon, maple, brown sugar, smoke, rosemary, sage, and chipotle peppers.

Chocolate in the standards:

Chocolate can be served for dinner in old standbys like souffle, fondue, and mole.  It can also be used with raspberries and cream as a dessert or cold soup.  Try sprinkling cocoa over pork with mint jelly or over baked white fish.  Add it to fajita flavorings, Mexican dips, and appetizer pates.

There is no end to the experimentation you can do when cooking with chocolate and cocoa.  Use it to deepen the color in pumpernickel bread or spaghetti sauce.  Cooking with chocolate doesn't just open up flavor possibilities, but it makes available a whole range of health benefits, as well.  Unsweetened chocolate contains antioxidants and cocoa butter, both of which are good for brain and vascular health.  Eating chocolate keeps you young, and cooking with it keeps you safe from kitchen boredom.  Get out the cocoa and experiment.  It'll take you straight to the depth of culinary happiness.

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