Lamb Chops with Cocoa Nib Sauce
Savory dishes made with high quality unsweetened chocolate have long been found in the cuisines of Europe and Latin America. One of the most classic savory dishes made with chocolate is mole, a Mexican sauce of tomatoes and spices mixed with chilies and chocolate, classically served with chicken.
A growing interest in working with chocolate as an ingredient has led to an increase in savory dishes made with chocolate at restaurants and in home kitchens across the United States. In addition to using cocoa in savory dishes made with chocolate, you can also use cocoa nibs. A pure source of chocolate, they are tiny nuggets of roasted, shelled, and cracked beans. The nibs add a chocolate flavored nutlike texture. They don’t melt into a dish but stand alone as a unique flavor element.
Lamb Chops with Cocoa Nib Sauce
2 medium shallots, minced
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 6-ounce lamb chops
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup zinfandel or syrah
1/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon mustard (I used Walla Walla Sweet mustard)
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs*
Pinch of sugar
Grease a baking dish with cooking oil and place it on the middle oven rack; preheat to 325 degrees.
Sprinkle the cocoa powder on a plate; use it to lightly coat both sides of the lamb chops. Lightly season both sides with salt. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook for 2 minutes, then turn them over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Both sides should have a slightly seared, chocolate-brown crust. Transfer the meat to the baking dish in the oven.
With the skillet still over medium heat, add the minced shallots and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have softened. Add the wine and broth; increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes, until the liquid has been reduced by at least a third. Stir in the mustard.
Turn off the oven and transfer the meat to the counter to rest (an internal temperature of medium-rare should register 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
Add the cocoa nibs to the skillet and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning; add the sugar, if using. Divide the lamb chops among individual plates and spoon the cocoa nib sauce over the top.
*Note: For this recipe, I used Barlovento Hand Roasted Cocoa Nibs from Amano Artisan Chocolate. Following is information about the nibs and the company.
Barlovento Hand Roasted Cocoa Nibs
Made from 100% super-premium “Carenero Superior” cocoa beans exclusively from the Barlovento region of Venezuela. The beans were roasted to perfection in a vintage ball roaster and then winnowed (to remove the husk) in small batches in a beautiful antique winnowing machine. Carenero Superior cocoa provides a balanced richness in flavor not found in many other varieties of cocoa beans. They truly make beautiful nibs. Available locally at Chocolopolis on Queen Anne.
About Amano Artisan Chocolate
Located high in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range in the heart of the Rockies, Amano Artisan Chocolate, founded by Art Pollard, is dedicated to creating some of the world’s most exquisite chocolate through traditional techniques using vintage European equipment and techniques. Amano means “by hand” and “they love” in Italian, and that describes the care and perfection that Amano brings to their award-winning chocolate and in turn to the people who savor it.
Ready to try your hand at creating a savory dish with chocolate or cocoa nibs?
For inspiration on enticing new ingredients and techniques that go into the creation of memorable chocolate desserts as well as some surprising ways to incorporate unsweetened chocolate into savory dishes, check out Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich. Deborah Jones’ photography is stunning.
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