by Mary June Thompson, Food Writer. — Chocolate. It’s something that almost everyone loves, and the average American consumes nearly 12 pounds of it per year. The good news is that in moderation, chocolate is actually good for you, provided it has at least 70 percent cacao content. The higher cacao content means less sugar, which is good, but it also provides antioxidants and several important minerals such as cooper, magnesium, and iron.
Another thing that makes chocolate so great is how versatile it is. Most of us generally think of chocolate in terms of sweets, such as candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream, etc. But it also has savory applications, particularly in Mexican mole sauce, where unsweetened cocoa powder adds depth of flavor, color, and helps to temper the chilies used to make the sauce.
Chocolate is so ubiquitous that its flavor also appears in unexpected places. Two excellent examples of this are the herb “chocolate mint” and wine. Chocolate mint is a variety of peppermint that has been bred to contain notes of chocolate. It is wonderful used as both a garnish for chocolate desserts and also as a flavoring agent if you desire to mix chocolate with peppermint in sweets such a pudding, pie filling, or chocolate-based drink. Certain red wine varietals also contain hints of chocolate flavor, especially zinfandels and young cabernet sauvignons.
Locally, Blue Slip Winery offers 2 selections of wine to pair with chocolate. Their latest offering, Chambourcin, is a fruit-forward French-American hybrid. It is a dry wine that contains notes of chocolate and cherry, and pairs beautifully with chocolate desserts, particularly ones that are not overtly sweet.
Blue Slip Winery’s Seyval Blanc pairs well with chocolate-covered almonds, says owner Linn Slocum. For a full list of available handcrafted wines, visit BlueSlip.com.
“Our dry Cynthiana pairs well with Dark chocolates,” Slocum says. “Seyval Blanc is a French-American hybrid that ripens early and is cold-hardy. Ours has citrus notes and minerality and is off-dry. Cynthiana is an American grape also refereed to as Norton. This grape has tiny berries that yeild inky juice that results in a full-bodied robust wine with smooth tannins and a hint of cherry.”
For my latest recipe creation, I found inspiration in the various flavors that chocolate combines well with and also complements. In a nod to Mexican mole and how beautifully chocolate pairs with a bit of heat and spice, I developed a dessert that is both sweet and savory, rich but light in mouthfeel. Using unsweetened chocolate allows the chef to control the actual amount of sugar the dessert contains, which is healthier, and also allows the rich cocoa and chili flavors to take center stage, rather than the dessert just tasting sweet. (More sugar can be added to taste if one prefers a sweeter dessert.) A perfect after dinner treat with a glass of Chambourcin.
Chocolate Chipotle Mousse
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1-½ cups skim milk
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. instant coffee or instant espresso powder
¼ tsp. fine kosher salt
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1.) Combine gelatin and milk in a medium saucepan. Let stand 5 minutes to soften gelatin. Cook over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan (180°). Do not boil! Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, salt, instant coffee or espresso, and chocolate, whisking briskly until sugar and coffee dissolve and chocolate has melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into a medium glass (or other heatproof) bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap directly onto surface so a skin does not form. Refrigerate until mixture cools and just begins to set.
2.) Meanwhile, chill the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment (or alternately, a large bowl and the whisk attachment of a hand mixer) in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Pour cream into chilled bowl and whip cream just until stiff peaks form. (Do not over-whip or you will have butter.)
3.) Remove chocolate base from refrigerator. Fold in some of the whipped cream to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream, (saving some for a garnish if desired), until cream is fully incorporated into the chocolate. Chill for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
4.) Serve in individual dessert dishes, topped with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and/or a sprig of chocolate mint. Yields 4 servings.
Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.
CelebrateKnoxville.com, June 22, 2015.