Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Everything’s better with chocolate . . . and heat!

It isn’t often that you sit down to a meal with a variety of Tabasco sauces on your table, but that was my good fortune during the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals in New Orleans last month. The Tabasco company was sponsoring the meal, so it was their prerogative to scatter the room with samples of all their products. Each table had an assortment of Tabasco sauces, the original, the jalapeno green, the garlic, the habanero, the smoky chipotle and the sweet & spicy.

Maybe it’s not your first inclination, but I grabbed up the habanero and splashed some onto my chocolate pecan pie. It really picked up the flavors of the pie, in addition to adding the element of heat. It was a great combo.

Similarly, during last summer’s Fourth of July party, I nosed my way to the chocolate fountain past the kids with their marshmallows, strawberries and banana chunks, flowed some of the chocolate sauce into a dish for myself and dunked my barbecued pork ribs into it. It was love at first nibble, a smooth and pleasant blend of pork and fat and spiciness and chocolate and sweetness.

Both are examples of how you can tweak the basic idea of Mexico’s mole to create something new and wonderful. Dreaming up great flavor combinations is limited only by our imagination and perhaps by our degree of adventurousness. It doesn’t hurt to try one bite. And when you find a particular combination of flavors you like as in, say, mole, use that as your cue to try similar combinations. Spicy, chocolaty mole over pork in a Mexican restaurant encouraged me to try chocolate sauce on my spicy pork ribs. See how easy that is?

Now pass the hot sauce!

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