Chocolate’s Salty Side

Traditional chicken enchiladas with spicy chocolate salsa mole poblano.

With Valentine’s Day in the rear-view and Easter on the horizon, chocolate is everywhere this time of year. Heart-shaped boxes remain on the store shelves at severely marked-down prices, while chocolate bunnies and goo-filled chocolate eggs wait in the wings to deliver the sweet-obsessed their fix.

But all that chocolate takes its toll. Milk or dark or white, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So, after awakening from the sugar coma from under a pile of candy wrappers, try some of these savory dishes that lure chocolate out of its comfort zone.

Chocolate Chili Con Carne

Even without any chocolate, chili sometimes takes on that rich red-brown hue of a dish swimming in the stuff. Make that gastro-illusion a reality with actual chocolate chili con carne. Bitter dark chocolate or even a sweeter version can enhance beef, pork or lamb—all of which have a seat at the chili table. Chocolate chili boasts a robustness that conjures the flavor of dark coffee with a bold aggressiveness that most meat eaters would not fear in the slightest.


Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Cocoa powder slides easily into any dry rub, especially a rub that includes warming spices like cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Chocolate delivers a depth counterpoint to the brightness of those spices, coating pork ribs in a flavor that only gets better the lower and slower its cooked. Add a touch of chipotle chili powder to the mix, as chocolate has a tendency to highlight the nuances of a dish with the right amount of heat.


Mole Poblano

Probably one of the originators of chocolate’s savory application, mole sauce dates back to at least the early colonial period, when convent nuns in Puebla, Mexico, first prepared the sauce with turkey for a visiting archbishop (thanks, Wikipedia). There are no shortcuts to a true mole poblano, which can contain up to 20 ingredients, including multiple varieties of chili peppers, cloves, raisins and, of course, Mexican chocolate.


Pasta With Dark Chocolate Marinara Sauce

Stepping away from meat, pasta strides in with an unexpected entry into the savory chocolate dinner party. In what is basically a standard marinara sauce, dark chocolate makes an appearance with warm, subtle notes that smooth out the natural acidity of tomatoes for a more well-rounded flavor. For more of that chocolate-enhanced heat, try a spicier version with a fiery diablo sauce.


White Chocolate Baba Ghanoush

This Middle Eastern dish, perfect for appetizer dipping or in-between meal snacks, gets an exotic jolt from the addition of white chocolate, the forgotten and much-maligned member of the cocoa product family. The flavors and textures of baba ghanoush are made somehow smoother with the addition of chocolate, and the sweetness doesn’t overpower, but instead brings a surprising element to an already dynamic dip.


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