Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Chopped" Challenge - Meatballs in Mole Sauce with Swiss Chard

It's Day 2 of my "Chopped" challenge, in which I had asked my blog readers to suggest ingredients that I would then have to use in creating an appetizer, an entree, or a dessert.

My fabulously wonderful blogging buddy Jenn, of Jenn's Food Journey (who guest posted about Runza Bites in honor of the Michigan-Nebraska game this past fall), took me up on the project with the following dare:

"Oh my gosh, what a great way to challenge yourself!! Wow, let's see.... I'll suggest dark chocolate in the appetizer round. :) Good luck!!!" 

Well, chocolate - of course! - is usually reserved for sweets.  I had visions of a rich and decadent mousse, of decorative chocolate drizzles tucked into whipped cream, of melting the lusciousness and sprinkling it with lovely little tidbits like glaceed cherries and candied orange peel to make small and sophisticated candies.

But while those would have made exceptional desserts, they didn't qualify as appetizers, did they?

So then my mind meandered down to Mexico, where dark chocolate is a regular ingredient in savory sauces.  I, myself, have been known to toss chocolate into chili, so this wasn't too far-fetched to me.

I started to do some research, and found the following information about
 pipián sauces, which are a type of moleat bellaonline.com:

"A pipián is a sauce thickened with ground seeds or nuts and Mexican food at its most historical and authentically pre-hispanic. It belongs to the family of the great 'moles' of Mexico, and while the actual word mole, derived from the Aztecs’ Náhuatl language, simply means sauce, today it is almost invariably a sauce containing chillies .... (This sauce is) richly flavoured with spices and dried chillies, and further enhanced by the acidity of tomatoes or tomatillos."

I also found this on Wikipedia:

"The term mole is most often associated with thick, dark, brownish-red sauces, but the term is really more general than that ....  Pipian is a type of mole which mostly consists of ground squash seeds. It does not contain chocolate (though other moles do) ... (and is) served with poultry and pork, and sometimes with fish or vegetables."

And so, armed with this information as well as a tendency to put my own spin on foods by respecting tradition but tweaking it a bit, I started to create my dish.  Some 
pepitas would be necessary ... some peppers, perhaps chipotles in adobo sauce ... some tomatoes ... and don't forget the requisite chocolate!

I somehow had a notion about wanting to serve something small, like meatballs, rather than strips of meat; but I also didn't want to just serve boring ol' rice, or stuff the filling into a tortilla that would just be a drippy mess with the sauce.  Some red chard looked gorgeous at the market on the day I did my shopping, and so it became the accompaniment.  (Yes, that really is how it works sometimes in my brain - no plan, just whatever strikes my fancy!)  It definitely paired well with the sauce and with the pork.

Jenn loves both spicy food and her signature sauces.  So I tried to stay true to her spirit with these tender meatballs and their fabulous accompaniments.

Meatballs in Mole Sauce with Swiss Chard

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup roasted, salted pepitas, coarsely ground
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup beer
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

In a large saucepan, heat the oil, cumin seeds, and pepitas over medium heat; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Combine the tomato sauce and chipotle peppers in a blender; puree until smooth, then pour into the saucepan.  Stir in the salt and beer; bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to "low," then stir in the chocolate until melted.

1 pound ground pork
1 medium scallion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon oil

In a large bowl, combine pork, scallion, parsley, salt, pepper, and chili powder; combine well.  Form generous 1" meatballs.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the meatballs and cook for 6-7 minutes until well browned on all sides and slightly firm.  Carefully add the meatballs to the simmering sauce, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

Swiss Chard:
1 tablespoon oil
8 ounces red Swiss chard, torn into strips
pinch of kosher salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chard and the salt; cook just until wilted.

To serve: Place the chard onto a serving platter.  Top with the meatballs and the sauce.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.


Jenn said...

I LOVE it!!! You made it seem as if it was no challenge at all :) And sticking with a spicy sauce... you are speaking to my heart (and my stomach!). Nicely done!

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

You sailed thru this challenge Mary! Nice job, mole is totally what I'd have gone for too with chocolate in the appetizer round. Love mole! Putting meatballs into mole, I love that even more :) This sounds absolutely delightful. YUM! And now, thank you for the killer mole craving now :)

Cranberry Morning said...

How brilliant and exotic! You definitely rose to that challenge and nailed it spot-on, Mary! I can imagine Jenn already wondering how she can make it for dinner tonight! :-)

Candace said...

I think you did her proud with this one, Mary! Nice job! This has Jenn written all over it!

Chris said...

Holy mole! You did great on this one too, I love a good mole sauce.

Anonymous said...

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