Saturday, September 21, 2013

Foodie Fare - Chocolate and chili - By Brian Rounds

Everything chocolate seems to be what makes people happy these days; chocolate covered this, chocolate coated that. I even have a bucket (small one) behind my desk at school that has chocolate in it and when people need a pick me up they know where to go for it. The big problem with chocolate is that it is sometimes hard to work. 

In my years of cooking, I have made homemade dark chocolate brownies with swirls of peanut butter in them. I’ve gone the cookie route with my popular triple chocolate cookies. A few times I have tried my hand at chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate truffles, but any equation that involves me tempering chocolate is not balanced – I just don’t get along with the process.  Cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, you name it, I have ventured into it at some point or another. I think my drunken Irish cupcakes are favorites.

About five years ago, though, I wanted to try using chocolate in savory preparations. I wanted to blur the lines between entrĂ©e and dessert. I started experimenting. Chocolate risotto – pretty decent, especially when I added a half-a-pinch of red pepper.  Chocolate crepes stuffed with goat cheese and braised pork – different, but still good. I then entered a phase in my life where I was starting to experiment with chili. This is where my experimentation with chocolate found true success. 

I started by slow cooking a small beef brisket, but it is all about flavor, right? Let’s talk rub. I mixed my rub using salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper, and, yes, cocoa powder. I rubbed this on all sides of my brisket and then placed it in my slow cooker. I left it there all day long cooking in a bath of cola and red wine. The cola, you see, sweetens the meat while tenderizing it. The red wine, well, that’s just pure tastiness. 

Once the brisket was cooked to the point that I could pull the meat with a fork, I got to shredding.  Essentially, I had a huge bowl of pulled beef. Tasty all on its own, yes, but let’s go a step further, shall we? Time to make the chili. I would reserve about a cup of the braising liquid for my recipe and then save the rest to make homemade barbecue sauce with at a later date. 

For the chili, I would start with my cast iron Dutch oven coated with a little olive oil.  I dropped in 1 whole sweet onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Then went in four cloves of garlic minced. Once these were sweated out, I added a pound of ground beef and a pound of stew beef and let that brown up a bit. 

This chili needs spice, right? Well, I love mixing spices so I went to my spice rack and started playing. I mixed a palmful of each of the following: Cumin, chili powder, ground black pepper, salt, and cocoa powder.  I then took an eighth of a palmful of cayenne pepper and added that to the mix. This all went into the pot with the meat and onions along with the shredded beef and the reserved liquid. I had two cans of diced tomatoes (San Marzano, please), one can of stewed tomatoes, and a can of crushed tomatoes. Chili needs beans, right? Time to add a can of kidney beans and butter beans! I mixed everything up, gave it a taste to check seasonings and adjusted as needed.  

I served my delicious new chili recipe over rice.  Though the chili does not taste like chocolate, the chocolate actually boosts the chili flavor naturally.  The Mayans mixed chocolate and chili pepper regularly, so why not follow suit?

Recipe: Chili

1 beef brisket, trimmed
1 pound ground beef, leaner the better
1 pound stew beef
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1  28oz can stewed tomatoes
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed
Olive Oil

Rub for brisket:
Palmful of the following:
-                      Chili powder
-                      Garlic powder
-                      Onion powder
-                      Salt
-                      Ground Black Pepper
-                      Cumin
-                      Cocoa powder
Dash of cayenne pepper

Spice mix for the chili:
Palmful of the following:
-                      Chili powder
-                      Salt
-                      Ground Black Pepper
-                      Cumin
-                      Cocoa powder
Eighth of a palmful of cayenne pepper

For the brisket:
Slow cooker on low, trim fat from brisket, rub with spices. Pour in enough cola and red wine to come halfway up the brisket.  Cook all day.

For the chili:
Sweat the onions and garlic, add the ground beef and stew beef and cook until browned. Add spice mix, shredded beef, tomatoes, and beans. Let this cook together for about an hour on medium-low so the flavors can dance a little. Serve over rice.

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