I like to collect chocolate.
Not like stamps or rocks - no albums or boxes. Not neatly or methodically, but haphazardly and impulsively. I buy chocolate from big supermarkets, from gourmet delis, from chocolatiers. It tends to pile up, a random assortment of chocolate in varying states of eaten (uneaten?).
It might be more accurate to say that I accumulate chocolate.
Bars of chocolate. Wafers of chocolate. Pastilles of chocolate. Chocolate with pink peppercorns, with lavender, with rosemary. (But not bacon. Yet.) Chocolates twisted in shiny foil, chocolate wrapped in lovely thick paper. If it has an unusual flavor or a high cocoa content, chances are, I'll buy it.
So it's not all that surprising that I went wandering in a gourmet grocery, and a tin of cocoa powder caught my eye. It turned out to be gloriously fragrant and bitter, and then I had to figure out what I was going to do with it.
There's no shortage of desserts to be made with chocolate or cocoa powder, but savory dishes are more interesting. The most famous is mole, a complex, spicy sauce native to Mexican cuisine.
I've been told that it shouldn't be described as chocolate sauce, but I find that it's a perfectly adequate description as long as you're not using Hershey's chocolate syrup as your reference point. It tastes of the very essence of chocolate, all dark and a little bitter and almost smoky. Mole is usually served over turkey or chicken, but I'm fond of this version, which is made with black beans.
Black Bean Chocolate Mole with Caramelized Onions and Peppers
This dish is a blatant rip-off of the "Cubano Stew" served at the now-defunct Divine Bar East in New York City. They served it over shredded pork shoulder, but I find that it makes for a satisfying meal on its own.
(Serves one for two or three meals.)
Cut a small white onion into half-moons. Cut one red bell pepper and one yellow bell pepper into thin strips. Dice one small tomato.
Heat olive or canola oil in a large, oven-safe pan over low heat. Add the onions, the bell peppers, and the tomato. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and bell peppers are soft and fragrant.
Season with a generous dusting of chili powder, a light dusting of cinnamon, and just a little cayenne.
Rinse and drain one can of black beans. Add them to the pan and let them simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add two tablespoons of almond butter and three teaspoons of bitter cocoa powder to the beans, followed by a generous glug of red wine or balsamic vinegar. Stir until everything is well-incorporated, and the mixture is thick and fragrant. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for an additional five to ten minutes, then remove the pan from heat.
Top with grated pepper jack cheese. Pop the pan under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted with golden brown spots.
Serve with warm tortillas (corn or flour, your choice) and sour cream, if you like.
Note: If you're drinking wine, this goes well with a spicy Spanish red.