Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OMG a Recipe: You Put Your Sweet in My Savory (and vice-versa)

I remember when Reese's Peanut Butter Cups first came out (yes, I'm old enough to remember a world without peanut butter cups). The commercial had two kids, one with a chocolate bar, one with a jar of peanut butter. The kid with the chocolate bar drops the candy into the peanut butter and the famous synchronized lines, "You put your chocolate in my peanut butter/you put your peanut butter on my chocolate" was born. What, you don't remember that? My age must be showing. It got me thinking about sweet and savory, and how they can do a switcheroo in dishes without fear of cats-and-dogs-living-together mass hysteria breaking out.

Don't hate on the beets in this chocolate brownie - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Chocolate in enchiladas? Beets in brownies? Yes We Can. It's not only possible, but it's tasty. It's easy to get lulled into the traditional use of ingredients, where chocolate lives in candy bars and beets get roasted and made into soups or salads. If we looked at ingredients without the context of our own flavor preferences and just saw them for what they were -- sweet, smoky, bitter, sour, etc -- we would start to re-envision the ingredients in seemingly unlikely things. Beets are a root vegetable with a high sugar content, probably one of the highest. I remember reading somewhere how the high sugar acts as a natural form of antifreeze, preventing the vegetables from getting icy in the cold months when they're still below the ground. The same way we use carrots, another sweet root vegetable, in cakes, beets can be used as well. If we can ignore all those plates of boiled beets or bowls of borscht and just see beets as another source for sweetness, why not use them for dessert?

Of course I had our CSA to thank for this one -- we were delivered several red beets, and along with the produce, Full Circle Farms kindly includes a newsletter that has suggestions and recipes. The week's recipes included a beet chocolate cake, which I modified to become a brownie. Why? A lack of patience, mostly. I didn't want to wait for the butter to soften and the original cake recipe was more like a chocolate-beet chiffon cake, with the eggs separated and the whites whipped to help lighten the cake. I appreciate the earthy heartiness of beets, and I think it pairs nicely with bittersweet chocolate, so why not have it in a rich, dense brownie? I also went the extra mile, adding dollops of partially-frozen sweet goat cheese icing on top of the brownies, then swirling it when the oven softened it after a few minutes. This is an extra step that's nice, but not necessary. And honestly, how many people are random enough to have a little container of frozen goat cheese frosting in the freezer? If you do have this in your freezer, I doff my hat to you, fellow chevre freaks.

If you're like me and want to mess with the Mister's mind and convince them beets are not all that bad, give this beet brownie recipe a try. It's modified from Full Circle Farms' original Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake recipe.

I Can't Believe It's Beet Brownies!
2 large beets, roughly chopped (to prep, roast and peel, or boil until soft and peel)
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup hot coffee
7 oz butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a square baking dish with parchment paper to prepare for the batter. Place a medium sized pot on a burner set to medium-lo and add butter, coffee, sugar and chocolate. Melt and combine ingredients until they are fully combined and set aside to cool slightly. Place cooked and peeled beets into a blender or food processor and puree with chocolate and butter mixture until smooth.

Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together into a bowl. Fold in the chocolate-beet mixture and add the eggs. Mix everything until incorporated and pour into the prepared baking dish. Place the dish into the oven and bake until just-set, 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. Use a toothpick to check the doneness of the center of the pan; it should come out slightly moist, not coated with batter. Allow the cake to cool before cutting the brownies down.

Chocolate enchiladas for... dinner? Dessert...? - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I had beets in brownies, so how about chocolate in enchiladas? Call it reverse dessert. Using cocoa in flavor-complex mole sauces isn't unusual; a combination of dried chiles and spices, simmered in a vegetable and tomato-based sauce -- pure deliciousness. Cacao doesn't naturally taste like a chocolate bar, it's bitter and the processing of the pods is similar to coffee -- there's roasting, developing a smoky flavor, and then it's ground to release its oils and flavors. So it would make sense that unsweetened chocolate is added to rich, slow-cooked sauces to impart that deep flavor. I usually make my own enchilada sauce. Not because I'm trying to be fancy-schmancy, and I would never call the recipe traditional (it's actually a pretty quickie sauce), I just prefer building the sauce myself because I'm never totally sure what the heck is in those canned sauces.

Admittedly, when I made this batch of enchiladas, they were Cheater Enchiladas. I didn't roll the tortillas, I layered tortillas with sauce and shredded beef the way you would make a lasagne. The finished dish was more like a layered casserole. I was more interested in getting the flavor of that sauce into my hungry tummy as quickly as possible, hence the shortcut. The thing to remember when making this is don't swap the unsweetened baking chocolate with sweetened baking chips. You want the bitter, almost coffee-like quality of the chocolate to add earthy flavor to the sauce, not taste like you threw in a Hershey bar.

Adding chocolate to enchiladas? Don't judge, it's delicious - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Chocolate Mole Enchilada Sauce
1.5 pounds chopped tomatoes or 2 15 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 ounces of unsweetened baker's chocolate (usually comes in 1 oz squares)
2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar (or more, to taste)
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for cooking

In a large pot, set to medium high, drizzle with oil. Add chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic and sautee until softened and slightly browned. Add the tomatoes, chocolate and dry spices. Mix to combine and drop heat to low. Let simmer for an hour, letting the vegetables soften. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use a stick blender to puree final sauce.

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