"As long as you stay on this side of the sweet-savory line, the meat and chocolate trend is a great one."
Chocolate and meat may have started with the Aztecs (in their thick, chocolate-tinged mole sauce) but the food marriage has been spreading to the artisanal candy aisle and non-Mexican restaurants like Blue Hill in New York. At first I was very wary of this combination but knew I'd have to give in--if for no other reason than to say I'd at least tried it.
My first foray into chocolaty meat, probably like many others, was the Vosges bacon chocolate bar. I picked it up about a year ago and my impression was anything but good: the bacon bits tasted like Bac~Os and overpowered the chocolate to the point that I couldn't enjoy it at all.
"Like any food trend, I feel like meat candy started out as a questionable idea that, in the hands of someone who can make good food, was well executed and thus delicious. That said, a lot of meat-based confections are pretty gross. Roni-Sue's and NuNu Chocolates bacon chocolates are very nice but most others I've tried I'd rather pass on," said Brooklyn butcher Tom Mylan on the topic.
The Vosges experience was enough for me to swear off the chocolate-and-bacon combo, at least until recently when I decided to give it a shot on my own terms. My daughters and I made some of our own chocolate-covered bacon and this time, the results were actually pretty good. Maybe it was the fresh bacon or that we were able to control its thickness (and thus, flavor)--whatever the reason, this time we became choco-carnivores.
Last week a New Zealand chocolatier debuted her meat-flavored dark chocolate line, saying it was specifically geared toward men. The sausage-shaped bon-bons are flavored with bits of dried salami and were recently served at the New Zealand Meat Industry Association conference, where they were a big hit. Speaking of meaty bon-bons, chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill makes one with pig's heart and liver.
Now, before you declare organ meat bon-bons as just going too far, consider meat-plus-chocolate's history again. It was first "discovered" over 3,000 years ago by the Aztecs and Mayans but wasn't meant to be a sweet treat. In fact, the seeds of the cacao tree were ground up and used in a drink dubbed "bitter water." Chocolate without sugar or milk products is actually far from sweet.
Several versions of mole sauce are prepared using chocolate and are served over meat, traditionally chicken, or in enchiladas. The recipe combines dark or bitter chocolate with herbs, vegetables, peppers and chiles. Another Mexican dish, asado de boda, is traditionally served at wedding feasts, and combines a small amount of bittersweet chocolate with herbs, chiles, orange zest, and other seasonings and served over pork loin.
As far as Jessica and Josh Applestone of Fleisher's Meat are concerned, chocolate and meat mix beautifully, especially a dark or bittersweet chocolate with lamb or pork, maybe with some sour cherries thrown in there. "As long as you stay on this side of the sweet-savory line, the meat and chocolate trend is a great one," said Jessica. The couple is still waiting to spring a chocolate chorizo on the world (and they are actually fans of the aforementioned Vosges bacon bars).
Have you experimented with chocolaty meats?