Friday, February 17, 2017

February 2017 - Chocolate Dinner

In February, we met at Rebecca's house to celebrate the theme of Chocolate!  Each course had to include chocolate in some way.

We started the meal with homemade goat cheese and chocolate appetizers brought by Kim and Focaccia made by Rebecca served with Chocolate Orange Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil.

Blitz Bread: No Fuss Focaccia  - Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (to drizzle into the pan)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (for the dough)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • Za'atar seasoning 
  • coarse salt
  1. Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water for 10 minutes or until bubbly.
  2. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, cover and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, until it is puffy.
  5. Near the end of the rising period, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  6. Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.
  7. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried herbs and coarse salt, if desired.
  8. Bake the bread until it's golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Our second course was a butternut squash soup made by Lauren which contained dark chocolate melted into the spiced mixture.

For our main course, Rebecca made a Sweet and Savory Meat Sauce with Chocolate, served over homemade tagliatelle.

Giuliano's Sweet and Savory Meat Sauce with Chocolate - adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium garlic clove, minced
10 sprigs of Italian Parsley, leaves only, plus extra for garnish
4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1 cup of drained, canned Italian tomatoes pureed or 1/4 cup canned tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
3/4 ounce 55%-62% chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
1 lb dried or fresh tagliatelle or other egg pasta
Cocoa nibs, crushed or coarsely chopped, for sprinkling at the table

Saute the chopped vegetables, garlic, pancetta and parsley leaves in the olive oil over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and beginning to brown.  Add the ground meat and stir it into the sauteed ingredients, breaking it up with a wood spoon or fork.  When the meat is no longer pink, drain fat if desired (the original recipe doesn't say to drain the fat and I found the finished dish to be too greasy.  I drained all but 1Tbsp. of the fat for our dinner).  Add the wine to the meat mixture and simmer to evaporate it, about 5 minutes.

When the wine has evaporated, add the tomato puree to the pan and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Simmer slowly for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dolce-forte by combining the wine vinegar, raisins, pine nuts, chocolate and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil

When the wine is reduced, stir in the dolce-forte and simmer for 5 more minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning as desired.

Cook the pasta just until al dente.  Reserve some of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding pasta water as needed to loosen up the mixture.

Sprinkle with some chopped parsley for color.  Pass the cocoa nibs at the table for sprinkling over the pasta if desired.

Christiane brought an additional main course of chili with chocolate, served over white rice.

For dessert, Katharina brought a spiced rum vanilla pudding with chocolate folded into it.  Kim also served a plain goat cheese with chocolate covered pretzels.