February is the month of love, so what better time to experiment with cocoa powder and nibs in the kitchen? Not only does cocoa taste delicious, as both a sweet and savory ingredient, but it’s also super versatile and good for you. Loaded with antioxidants, it’ll better your heart health and improve your skin—something we all could use a bit more of in the cold, chilly weather.
And when it comes to preparing warm, grounding meals your body craves this season, cocoa’s flavor complements meats, soups, stews, and other rich, filling foods. Here are a few exciting and interesting ways to cook with or use cocoa powder and nibs for a taste bud adventure.
A tip? Start with Valentine’s Day. If you’re not dining out—though if you are, you can book a reservation for a romantic Valentine’s Day pre-fix here—test your cooking skills with this aphrodisiac food that’s perfect for the occasion.
Use it in Sauces
Cocoa works well in hearty or smooth soups, especially ones that have textural elements, such as beans and legumes, chunky meats, and thick vegetables. Cocoa also can complement bigger, brighter spices, so it works well in several cuisines that incorporate distinct aromas.
When cooked with cocoa, red meat sauces, like beef or game, such as venison, elk and rabbit, add complexity, giving a slightly different characteristic than you would think. Picture this: it’s as though you were adding coffee to something for a stronger kick of unexpected flavor.
Use it in Cures
Another use for cocoa is in cures. You can use it when curing bacon, salmon, (to make lox), or on a charcuterie platter, which might consist of hams and salumi.
That salty element that goes into cured meats and fish works well with something bitter; yet, slightly sweet like cocoa, which can be used as cocoa powder or nibs. It adds a great flavor, as well as a dark color, which brings something interesting to the plate in terms of appearance.
Make a Molten Cake
These warm, gooey cakes are sure to impress—so consider whipping this up for a special date night or an intimate dinner party with close friends. (Related: This carrot cake soufflé is also sure to be a crowd pleaser.)
Instead of sticking with a plain cake, give it a little pizazz with cocoa nib tuiles, which will enhance the complexity of the dish and add an extra element to dessert.
110 g butter
110 g 72% Chocolate
80 g sugar
2 egg yolks
35 g flour, AP
Whip the eggs and yolks until thick, and gradually add all the sugar. Then, melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Fold in the eggs with the chocolate butter mixture, whisk in the flour, and bake in a 4 oz. ramekin at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
Cocoa In Tuiles:
35 g butter
35 g flour
35 g maple syrup
35 g brown sugar
30 g cocoa nibs
In a saucepan bring butter, flour, maple syrup, brown sugar, and cocoa nibs to a boil. When the mix is cooled, spoon onto silpat and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, until crispy.
Use it in Cocktails
Any dish that uses cocoa as an ingredient deserves a cocoa-crazy sip to accompany it. You can never go wrong with a wine that has notes of cocoa and spice, which can take on bold flavor profiles in cooking, such as meats, cheeses, and other savory items.
Additionally, you can blend cocoa, coffee, and alcohol for a sweet—and strong—cocktail with a major caffeine kick. Chocolate and coffee are lovely cocktail companions. This could just be the perfect cocktail for when you’re sitting down to dinner after a long day at work.
1.5 oz Vodka
.5oz Godiva Chocolate Liquor
.5oz Amarula (or Creme de Alba)
Shake for 25 seconds
Pour into a Martini Glass and Garnish with shaved chocolate.
Interested in dining at the Albert? You can easily book a reservation.