Last week I wrote about cooking with candy in homage to Halloween, but this week, I wanted to focus on chocolate specifically.
According to a National Confectioners Association article from last October, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said chocolate is their favorite Halloween treat. That should be no surprise. Frankly, I can’t believe they got away with lumping all forms of chocolate together.
Candy corn came in second at 10 percent of people naming it their favorite, followed by chewy candy in third at 7 percent. I wonder if Tootsie Rolls fell into that category or not. Does anyone ever eat Tootsie Rolls, or do they just save them to give away again next year? They’re like the fruitcake of the candy world.
I was the host of my cooking club’s October dinner, and I had toyed with calling the theme of the night “Candy Crush” and requiring everyone to bring a course either featuring a candy in it or being inspired by a particular candy. But my husband said that sounded gross and vetoed it. I had come across a recipe for chicken mole, a Mexican dish that uses cocoa as one of the zillion ingredients in the sauce, and wanted to give it a try.
But instead of making everyone eat a candy-loaded meal, I changed the theme to “It’s getting chilly, let’s eat chili!” and used the chicken mole recipe I had wanted to make in the first place, converting it into a chili by adding black beans. So that’s the first recipe for today in our savory chocolate recipes.
This recipe was on Epicurious.com and was a simplified version of mole, with only 13 ingredients in the sauce, all of which I was able to buy locally either at my normal grocery store or one of the Latin markets in Westminster. The color of the sauce turned out looking exactly like melted milk chocolate, but the taste most people noticed the most was the strong orange flavor and the smokiness of the dried peppers. It was not sweet, but then again, it wasn’t that spicy either.
For this 6-quart recipe, I added a little more than a teaspoon of hot Mexican chili powder and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper as well, and that helped heat it up. I left the recipe below exactly as it was on the website so you can tinker with it to your own taste. And as for the beans, I prepared a pound of dried black beans in my pressure cooker, lightly salted them afterwards, and then added them to the mole. It was delicious.
The second recipe is for charred cauliflower and shishito peppers with picada sauce, which I haven’t tried yet. Picada is a Catalan-style pesto, and this version features almonds, parsley, and chocolate. It sounds unusual but I’m willing to give it a try.
And then on the slightly less savory side, biscuits and chocolate gravy with bacon. This is not a recipe for homemade biscuits, so either use your own recipe for that part or take a shortcut and buy the refrigerated kind, but it’s a true gravy made from butter and milk and flour, and oh yeah, cocoa powder and sugar. The photo looked like hot fudge on biscuits, but it is more gravy than syrup. And we know bacon and chocolate was a big thing a few years ago, so yes, I’ll take the bacon crumbles for sure.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot; sauté until lightly browned, adding more oil by the tablespoon as needed, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to large bowl.
Return chicken and any juices to pot. Add broth and orange juice; bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and stir until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture (reserve pot). Add raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat.
Do ahead: Can be made three days ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before serving.
Transfer chicken mole to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with warm tortillas.
Ingredient note: Dried chiles are available at many supermarkets and Latin markets. Dark, sweet, grainy-textured Mexican chocolate disks flavored with cinnamon (such as Abuelita) are available at Latin markets and from www.mexgrocer.com.
Charred cauliflower and shishito peppers with picada sauce
1 head cauliflower, trimmed, halved, and cut into ½-inch wedges
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup canola oil, for frying
12 shishito peppers
½ cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated dark chocolate
2 teaspoons sherry
Heat oven broiler. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper; broil, flipping once, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and the garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium. Cook until garlic is golden, 4 to 6 minutes; transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Wipe skillet clean and heat canola oil over medium-high; fry peppers until blistered and slightly crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer peppers to paper towels to drain; season with salt. Stir almonds, 1 cup parsley, the chocolate, sherry, salt, and pepper into reserved garlic oil; spread onto a serving platter. Top with cauliflower; garnish with fried peppers and remaining parsley.
Combine sugar, cocoa powder and flour in a small bowl and whisk to blend.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat; add cocoa mixture and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until chocolate gravy is smooth and has thickened to gravy-like consistency.
Arrange split biscuits on plates; spread evenly with butter and top with warm chocolate gravy, sea salt and crumbled bacon.