Valentine’s Day isn’t just about the sweet stuff, or at least it doesn’t have to be. You have probably seen a traditional mole sauce at your favorite Mexican restaurant: a chocolate spiced sauce made with chilies and usually served over chicken (YUM). Why not add cocoa or cacao to your culinary repertoire? There is so much you can do with it once you think outside the candy bar.
You see, dark chocolate is bitter without all of that added sugar and can be used much like any other spice in its raw form. To get you started, let’s make something simple, yet decadent – in the savory sort of way.
DARK CHOCOLATE & ORANGE ZEST RUBBED RIBS
Recipe adapted from here.
You will need:
⅓ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
½ cup light brown sugar – preferably organic
3 tbsp Ancho chili powder – or New Mexico
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp roasted granulated garlic – plain granulated garlic works as well
2 tbsp chopped oregano
1 tbsp ground mustard
1.5 tsp dried ginger – don’t worry if you can’t find this, it’s not the all-star ingredient
2 tsp ground cinnamon – less if you’re using a stronger version like Chinese cassia
1 tsp ground allspice
Zest of 1 orange (use half if you want just a hint of flavor)
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cumin
1 rack of pork spare ribs per 2 people – Silver skin removed from bony side
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and nest a baking rack that is oven safe on top. Set aside.
Mix everything together except for the paprika, cumin, oregano and orange zest. Scoop ½ cup of mixture into a separate bowl, now add last few ingredients. Evenly and liberally coat your rack of ribs and place onto your prepared sheet pan. Let it air chill uncovered for a couple of hours in your fridge. Doing this will allow it to develop a nice crust in the oven! If you prefer to prep the night before, wrap the rack in cling wrap and then pop it into the fridge.
When you’re ready to get dinner started, pull the rack out of the fridge and let it start to rise in temperature. I usually do this as I’m working on side dishes and preheating my oven.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes and then raise temperature to 450 degrees for another 15 minutes. Alternately, bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Either way, let these rest for at least 10 minutes prior to cutting individual ribs for serving.
If you’ve been reading and following my articles, you probably know that I like to eat with my hands when given the option. Instead of plating the ribs, try making a parchment paper table runner like I did here. Then when you’re done, just roll it up and throw it away!
I paired these ribs with an oldie-but-goodie from Abruzzi: a Montepulciano from the winery Cantina Zaccagnini. I’ve been drinking this particular bottle before it became popularized by the likes of Rachel Ray. Admittedly, I have a tender spot for the grape. Though this particular bottle is Montepulciano d’abruzzo, I had my very first taste of it in Umbria, Italy. Actually, this was my very first wine tasting – ever! You can’t miss this bottle in the store with a piece of grape vine attached to the front. For about $14 per bottle you can enjoy notes of chocolate along with spice and earth to compliment your ribs.
So there you have it friends, a unique homemade Valentine’s Day dinner in a pinch!
For those who need a little something sweet for it to officially be Valentine’s Day, may I suggest you give these cupcakes a try or stop at Zest Fresh Pastry at the Velvet Mill for dessert? I recently sampled one of their raspberry lintzer cookies and have plans to go back for more. Cookies aside, I have been known to make meals of their sticky buns and mallowmars alone.
Cheers to a very Happy Valentine’s Day and enjoying it tastefully,
TIP: This recipe will make quite a bit of dry rub. If you leave out the orange zest and oregano, you can safely store it in an air tight container and use it for pork chops on a week night.