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USA Enamel™

Your New Favorite Ingredient is Next to the Register

By: Lodge Cast Iron / June 6, 2023

Chocolate makes everything better. We delight in adding cocoa and chocolate to our chili because it brings richness and depth that balances out all of the other delicious flavors—but there’s a lot to know about cooking with chocolate. Check out our primer on the best types of chocolate to bring to your cooking, and we’re talking beyond baking.

Chocolate Bar Chili USA Enamel

Choosing the right chocolate

When you’re in the chocolate aisle, you’ll notice varying percentages of cacao: this simply indicates what percent of the chocolate bar’s weight came from cacao beans. The higher the percentage, the less sweet and more bitter the chocolate will be. Generally, we recommend saving milk chocolate for dessert and using semi-sweet, dark, or raw chocolate for savory dishes, adding a complex richness and creaminess to your dish without making it overly sweet.

Cocoa powder is another great way to add chocolate flavor to your dish without creaminess or sweetness. This is our go-to when we work with proteins. You can combine cocoa powder with spices like paprika, cayenne, garlic, pepper, or even espresso powder to create a delicious dry rub for steaks, ribs, or pork chops. It’s also what we pick if we’re incorporating chocolate into a dough—like chocolate sourdough bread or chocolate ravioli filled with mascarpone and ricotta.  

And when it comes to garnish, we love to experiment with cacao nibs. They bring an intense chocolate flavor and crunch that works great to top off salads. Pair them with a salad that’s tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, topped with creamy goat cheese, or covered in fresh strawberries. The slight smokiness and bitterness also complement a well-seared steak or pork tenderloin. Crust your protein with the cacao nibs and pour yourself a glass of red wine while the magic happens on the grill. 

Chocolate Bar Chili USA Enamel

Prep your chocolate

The first step to cooking with chocolate often requires melting. Chocolate can scorch and shouldn’t be left over a heat source for too long. It’s a good idea to incorporate it toward the end of the cooking process if you’re using it to make something like chili or bolognese. In this case, the chocolate (chopped into uniform pieces!) can simply be melted and combined with the other ingredients. 

If you want to incorporate chocolate into a sauce, you’ll want to melt it separately. You can do this in the microwave, in a double boiler, or directly in a saucepan or melting pot. Be careful: chocolate can scorch. The trick? Low and slow. Rushed melting can ruin your chocolate. And no matter which method you choose, start with uniform pieces so that everything melts evenly. 

If you take the microwave route, heat in short bursts and give the chocolate a quick stir in between. While not as efficient as the microwave, the double boiler method is unlikely to cause scorching because it uses gentle steam to melt the chocolate. Make sure to choose a heatproof bowl that fits over your saucepan without touching the simmering water below. If you choose to melt chocolate directly in a saucepan or melting pot, be aware that it can burn or scorch quickly. But if you use a very low heat, stir intermittently, and keep an eye on the melting process—it can be quick and successful. 

Find the right flavor pairing

When you’re looking for the right dish, remember that chocolate pairs nicely with strong flavors. That’s why we often pair chocolate with red wine or coffee. Chocolate and balsamic vinegar come together to make a great salad dressing. Cocoa powder and espresso powder can be combined to make an elevated seasoning for searing steaks or frying burgers (we see you, coffee lovers).

When it comes to fruits and veggies, we reach for tangy fruits like raspberries, tangerines, and black currants or hearty vegetables like arugula, beets, and brussels sprouts. Cheese can also be a nice complement to chocolate. The bitterness of the chocolate contrasted with the creaminess of blue cheese, gorgonzola, goat cheese, or brie can layer complexity into your dish. The same goes for chilis and meat sauces. The minor addition of semi-sweet chocolate chips can bring a warm, creamy richness to your sauce, while also highlighting the other spices and herbs in the dish. 

And our #1 piece of advice? A little goes a long way! Incorporate a small amount at a time and see where it takes you. 

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Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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