Chocolate is more often than not eaten as a sweet treat, but did you know that by adding it to a range of savoury items and dishes, it can produce a unique flavour? According to records South Americans have been matching these ingredients for centuries – we are just catching on!
Using Chocolate or Cocoa Powder?
When preparing a savoury chocolate sauce, marinade or dry rub, you can either use cocoa powder or a solid chocolate bar (preferably dark chocolate). If you are making a traditional Mexican-style chocolate sauce, usually solid chocolate bars are grated and then slowly melted into the sauce. If making a marinade or dry rub, cocoa powder is the chocolate of choice. Use only a good quality chocolate.
Complementary flavours for chocolate
The most common flavours associated with savoury chocolate dishes are smoky and spicy. Chile peppers are commonly used to add heat while paprika and cumin are used to add a smokey flavour. Cinnamon is an excellent spice for chocolate because it imparts just a hint of warm, earthy sweetness. Using a small amount of chocolate in a main dish will prevent it from being too sweet. Cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate are not sweet at all and have more of a true chocolate quality, so you want to bring out those natural flavours instead of making them reminiscent of the sweet side of chocolate we know and love.
By combining dark chocolate and chilli together creates a very deep flavour. In Mexico it is popular to add a small amount of chocolate (approx a thumbnail) to chilli con carne to deepen the rich meaty flavour. The cocoa enhances the flavour of the spices within the dish and the milk content will tone down a little bit of the heat.
For something a little bit different, try making a chocolate cake with a thin layer of fiery chilli between the moist layers.
Chocolate and protein pairings
Chicken, pork and beef are perhaps the best proteins to work with when using chocolate. The warm and bold flavours of a sauce or rub pairs exceptionally well with these proteins and the sauce does not overpower the meat and vice versa. Venison is my meat of choice. By combining a small grated amount to a sauce consisting of;
Raspberry vinegar and
Will give a deep flavour to the accompanying sauce. As you only use a small amount of the sauce, it gives a subtle flavour that enhances the dish.
Why not try one of the above and let chocolate be part of every meal?