Coming Soon … Cooking with Tequila! Although Valentine’s Day is over, we shouldn’t dismiss the opportunity to enjoy chocolate every day! And Central Market has more chocolate varieties under one roof than I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to be invited by to the store for a private chocolate tasting tour with David Kiser, head of the Central Market Cooking School, and was invited to bring a friend. My good friend, Carolyn Mashburn, joined me as we toured aisles and aisles of chocolate. I felt like I won one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets! Central Market’s annual Chocolate Festival is their celebration of all things chocolate; and they did not disappoint. It was the place to be on Saturday, Feb. 12. They had special products including chocolate tortilla chips, bacon chocolate chip pancake mix, double chocolate stout beer and much more. From the Cooking School, we indulged in the delectable sampling that was going on in-store throughout the day. Starting with the fountain of chocolate where I enjoyed dipping a marshmallow into the fondue pots of “Somebody’s Mother’s Chocolate Sauce” with ice cream. Chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, chocolate tortilla chips, bacon chocolate chip pancake mix, and yes, even double chocolate stout beer. This was a chocoholics dream come true! David Kiser shared so much information. He has been with Central Market since the opening back in 2001, and his passion for cooking and Central Market was very evident. Throughout the tour he took the time to stop and point out a few fun facts about several of the chocolates available. A sampling of some of the chocolate he discussed included araya artisan chocolate, which has a beautiful presentation. It is hand-pressed with fruit and nuts. They also offer great chocolate-covered fruit like mango and papaya. The araya company is located in Katy. Askinosie Chocolate, located in Springfield, Mo., is also only available locally at Central Market, and FYI, it is featured this month in Oprah Magazine. You can actually check the Choc-O-Lot Number from your packaging to read the amazing story of your bar. The beans can be traced completely back to their origin. To the name of every farmer who contributed to each crop. They state the bean origin, variety, and the percentage of cocoa content, as each bar is from a single plantation much like a single-vineyard wine. And as a bonus, they don't add any additives to their chocolate; beans and sugar, that's it. The John French Chocolate is “Chocolate to the Stars” but my host, David, did not or would not divulge which stars. Petrossian Hot Chocolate-on-a-Stick, ingenious ... and delicious! Swirl these cubes of the finest Belgian chocolate into a cup of hot milk, or heavy cream for the ultimate cup of cocoa. Featured on Oprah.com as one of Oprah's Top Gifts of 2009! These really intrigued me, so I had to have two for our “little” granddaughters for Valentine’s Day. The John Kelly Chocolate, was by far, my favorite; a delicious chocolate truffle fudge bar with walnuts. Goldsmith Chocolate, Michel Cluizel, is the chocolate company I was most impressed with. He seeks to discover remarkable plantations in developing chocolates that have a history, taste and look like fine wine. Available only in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and right here at Central Market! I could go on and on but I think you can tell I was in heaven, chocolate heaven all day. Enough of my story and on to the recipes. So please, “Join Our Table” and enjoy the unique and not so unique recipes! Spinach and Walnut Salad with Pears and Nib Vinaigrette (From Central Market Cooking School) Serves 4 2 shallots, minced 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped cacao nibs 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 8 ounces spinach leaves (about 10 cups) 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts Salt and freshly ground black pepper DIRECTIONS: Place shallots and vinegar in a small bowl and let it sit for 15 minutes. Add the nibs to the vinegar, and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Place the spinach, pears and walnuts in a large bowl. Add ¼ cup of the vinaigrette and toss. Add additional dressing as necessary to lightly coat the greens, and serve. Reserve any remaining vinaigrette for another use. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DARK AND SMOKY CHOCOLATE CHILI (From Central Market Cooking School) 6 SERVINGS 2 large ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed 3 pounds pork loin, cut into ½-inch cubes 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 large yellow onions, chopped 2 large roasted red peppers, peeled and chopped 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped 3 ounces Callebaut unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cumin 2 tablespoon chili powder 6 large cloves garlic, chopped 4 cups beef stock Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste DIRECTIONS: Soak the ancho chiles in hot water to cover for 30 minutes. Puree chiles and soaking liquid in a blender or food processor. Heat olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red pepper and jalapeno, and sauté until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the garlic and spices and continue to cook for about 2 minutes more. Remove pot from heat. Season the pork loin with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then dredge the seasoned pork in the flour. Return the pot to the flame and when it comes to full heat, add the floured pork. Cook the mixture until the pork starts to render, the meat begins to brown and the flour and oil have created a rich roux, about 15-20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot often. Add the chocolate and stir until it melts. Add the stock to the pot, stirring well and scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in the pureed chiles and adjust the seasoning (will need some salt). Bring the chili to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until pork is very tender and gravy is thick and silky, adding more stock if the mixture gets too thick. Served over rice with hot, fresh tortillas and lots of ice cold beer (try Negro Modelo or Dos Equiis Amber). CACAO NIB and COFFEE RUB (From Central Market Cooking School) 1/4 cup cacao nibs 1/4 cup dark roast coffee (French Roast, Espresso, etc.) cone-drip grind 1/8 cup dark brown sugar 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon ground pepper DIRECTIONS: Using a spice grinder or food processor, pulse-grind the cacao nibs to the consistency of very coarse-ground coffee. Combine all ingredients; set aside. Use with protein of choice (beef, pork, firm white fish, etc.) by coating liberally with the rub before cooking. Note: Usually you can make a mole up to a week in advance; refrigerate until ready to use. P.S. Dear Karen, Thanks for inviting me Saturday to the Central Market’s Chocolate Festival; I enjoyed being with you. I have attached Brad’s fudge recipe. Carolyn Note: I have known Brad Mashburn since 1980. He is now a grown man with a lovely wife and two great kids. This is a recipe he created years ago when he was a kid himself, living in Corpus Christi. I don’t see him very often, even though he has lived in Kingwood since his Bear Branch days. But whenever I think of Brad, his chocolate fudge comes to mind … it is great and fast. Thanks Carolyn for sharing Brad’s recipe! Brad’s Super-Fast Microwave Fudge 1 pound powdered sugar 1/2 cup cocoa 1/4 cup whole milk 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (or margarine) 1 tablespoon vanilla 1/2 cup chopped nuts DIRECTIONS: Blend sugar and cocoa together in a 9-x-13 pan (2 quart).  Add milk. Lay stick of butter on top.  DO NOT STIR.  Microwave on high power for 2 minutes.  Remove from microwave and stir well to mix. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir again. Freeze for 20 minutes (or refrigerate for an hour). Cut and serve. Photo: David Kiser, head of the Central Market Cooking School, sharing information about the John Kelly Chocolates with the assistance of their company representative.

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