On a recent radio interview that I did, the producer wrote immediately afterward that they were inundated with requests for my recipe for Cocoa Nib Sausage, which I use to top my Chocolate Pizza Dough from The Great Book of Chocolate.
I get a lot of quizzical looks from people when they hear the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘pizza’ in the same breath, but adding sugar to chocolate is a relatively new idea in the grand history of the bar. (Most of us remember how our grandmothers only kept unsweetened chocolate in the house.) And there’s many cultures that use chocolate in savory dishes whose origins go back hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, including Mole. And here in France, it’s not uncommon for many cooks to sneak a bit of grated a chocolate into their Coq au Vin.
Many years ago, I became good friends with Joanne Weir, when we were young cooks starting out and before we knew any better. Now she’s famous with a television career and many terrific books to her name, and we try to see each other when we passes through each other’s town.
My favorite recollection of her is when she came to my house in San Francisco to make pizza. Mostly I remember that there were a lot of empty bottles of Barolo the next day, and a copy of this recipe on my counter that was splattered with garlic oil and a few flecks of parsley. (And my oven was a mess too.) So when I was looking for the perfect topping for my chocolate pizza dough, I adapted her sausage recipe, adding crunchy and unsweetened cocoa nibs which gave it a nice savory crunch, as well as a bit of chocolate flavor.
Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza
Enough for two 9-inch pizzas, or 1 rectangular baking sheet pizza (approximately 11″ by 17″)
You can use this sausage to top any recipe for your favorite pizza dough if you’d like.
1 recipe for Chocolate Pizza Dough, rolled out onto baking sheets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ pound ground lamb
- ½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped canned plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste or harissa
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- large pinch (each) cinnamon, allspice and cloves
- 1/8 teaspoons red pepper or chili flakes
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup roasted cocoa nibs
- 4 ounces fontina cheese, grated
- 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil and the minced garlic. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions until soft and translucent. Add the lamb, tomatoes, tomato paste (or harissa), parsley, pine nuts, spices, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook slowly for 10 minutes (uncovered).
3. Remove from heat and add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and let cool to room temperature.
4. Once cooled, stir in the cocoa nibs.
To make the pizzas: Brush top of pizza dough with garlic-infused olive oil. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the dough then spread the sausage over the cheeses. Finally top with the remaining cheese and bake the pizza in a very hot oven until the cheese is bubbling and deep-golden brown.
Sometimes I find food shopping in Paris like trying to catch a feather: the harder and more urgent you reach for something, the harder it seems to grasp.
And with the recent tanker spill of 800,000 pounds of cocoa beans, it seems like chocolate’s going to be in short supply, so I’d better find another medium to work with. So how about pork?
So off I went to Tang Freres in Paris and found everything I needed for the Chinese dumplings known as Sui Mai. I found just about everything…except for The Most Common of All Of All Asian Ingredients Known To Mankind: cilantro, or coriandre.
Not a bunch in the bin, and I (along with 15 or so Chinese dames) mulled around in a daze, unbelievable that the largest Asian market in one of the largest cities in the world could possibly be out of cilantro. *sigh*
Few people know this but I’m a pretty decent Chinese cook. I owe that to Bruce Cost, who’s the best and most gifted chef I’ve ever worked with. Dressed in khakis and a slightly-rumpled Oxford shirt, he’d hulk over the giant wok.
His hands would drop some raw vegetables and chiles into the wok. Then casually he’d add some shrimp or strips of beef. It would sizzle and he’d stir. He’d add a few more things; maybe some strange, unknown vegetables, some sauce, and perhaps some rock sugar or vinegar Then he’d crank the heat to ultra-high, the flames would blaze up around the wok, and in spite of the drama of the roaring fire and the wok, he would just stand there, calmly stirring.
Then he’d simply slide the food on a plate and we’d all be dazzled.
Making the authentic food from many cuisines isn’t all the difficult (unless you’re making Chinese food and can’t find cilantro…) It just requires you to have on hand a few essentials. Few cities I know of lack a Chinese grocer (and most do have huge bunches of cilantro), and in my experience, most well-stocked supermarkets have a decent selection of Asian products (unless you live in…oh, never mind…)
Some notes on a few Chinese ingredients:
- Sesame Oil
The best sesame oil is made only from roasted sesame seeds and nothing else. Check the ingredients, as some brands mix sesame oil with vegetable oil.
- Fish Sauce
It smells vile, but tastes remarkable when mixed as a sauce or seasoning. I use the Squid Brand fish sauce from Thailand. In spite of the menacing-looking cephalopoda on the label, fish sauce is made from salted and fermented anchovies.
- Fresh Ginger
Fresh ginger should always be rock-hard with no signs of mold or soft spots. You can peel ginger with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, but scraping it with a soup spoon works well to get around the nooks-and-crannies.
- Water Chestnuts
Fresh chestnuts are quite expensive in Paris, where they’re called chataigne d’eau. The only ones available were cryovac’d. When I got home, I tasted a few and they were so fermented that I had to toss them out. Luckily I bought some canned ones for insurance (proof that as you get older you get smarter), and used those. But the fresh are much better, and they’re easily available and inexpensive in Asian markets in the United States. If using canned water chestnuts, double the amount called for.
Fresh shrimp is expensive and I’ve found that good-quality peeled raw shrimp is fine to use for dumplings.
About 60 Dumplings
Adapted from the repertoire of Bruce Cost
This is a lot of pork to chop.
Yes, it took me about an hour and it’s quite a good workout, but I didn’t feel the need to go to yoga today…although chopping all that meat may be
bad karma, so perhaps I should go tomorrow for redemption. (Can you ‘bank’ karma?)
But the dumplings have a much better texture if you han-chop the pork and shrimp, although you could use a food processor, or buy pre-ground pork.
- 2½ pounds (1 kilo) pork shoulder (palette de porc)
- 1 pound (450 gr) shelled raw shrimp
- 1 bunch scallions, well-chopped (use as much of the green part that's edible)
- ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 large egg
- 1½ tablespoons roasted sesame oil
- 6 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely-minced fresh ginger (peel before chopping)
- Round won ton wrappers (or square ones...if the largest Asian market in your city doesn't carry round ones)
1. Using a large kitchen cleaver, cut the pork into slices, then finely chop all the pork up. Put into a bowl.
2. Chop up the shrimp into small pieces and add to the bowl.
3. Use your hands to mix in the scallions, cilantro, fish sauce, salt, corn starch, egg, sesame oil, water chestnuts, and fresh ginger.
4. Form the meat mixture into balls about 1-inch (3 cm) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5. Take a won ton wrapper and place a meatball in the center. Gather the edges up and press the wrapper against the meat making a little cylinder.
Repeat with remaining meatballs.
6. To steam the dumplings, line a bamboo steamer with banana leaves and oil them lightly. Turn on the heat, and once the steamer is hot, steam the dumplings until hot all the way through, which will take about 5 minutes. (You can also use a steamer basket lined with cheesecloth, or lightly oiled.)
If you wish, the meatballs sans the won-ton wrappers can be gently dropped into simmering water and cooked for about 5 minutes, until cooked through, then served with the dipping sauce, or floating in soup.
Once steamed and cooled, the dumplings can be frozen in freezer-bags.
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (peeled)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons white Chinese vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon white pepper
3-4 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons chili oil
Mix all the ingredients together. Serve with the hot, steamed dumplings.
I’m only going to buy premium, top-quality garbage bags this year. No more el-cheapo, whisper-thin bags that you could read Le Monde through.
I generate mounds of fruit peelings, coffee grounds, egg shells, and all sorts of other icky stuff that doesn’t exactly get any better if it sits around for a few days or so. The last thing I want on my trip to the garbage room in my building is another accident in the elevator. Trust me. Having your garbage spill in an enclosed space crammed full of your fancy Parisian neighbors, where your every single move is scrutized, really sucks.
Like cheap toilet paper, that’s not one of the places you want to skimp on quality.
I’m going to master le Madeleine. And I promise not to mention ‘Proust’ in the same paragraph as the word ‘madeleine’…ever.
Yes, we all know he wrote extensively about eating one. But was he kind enough to include a recipe?
What a jerk.
I made the sorry error of buying cheap vanilla extract when I was in the US. Pure vanilla extract made from vanilla beans and alcohol is unavailable here. (Yes I do know, I’ve searched exhaustively. Please don’t leave comments that I don’t know where to look. The American-stores don’t count; I’m not paying those prices for tiny bottles of vanilla, the way I go through it. Read the ingredients. They all contain sugar, or no alcohol, and area labeled arôme, which ain’t pure extract.)
I was mesmorized by everything that’s available at Trader Joe’s on a recent visit to San Francisco.
People brag to me all the time, “I buy vanilla extract at Trader Joe’s! It’s so cheap! It’s only $4.99 per bottle! What a bargain!”, they go on and on and on and on…
So I arrive back in Paris, twist off the top, and take a sniff. Phew!, this stuff smells like pure alcohol with maybe the idea of vanilla somewhere vaguely in the background.
Trader Joe’s has a lot of very good things, but their vanilla isn’t one of them. Nor is it a bargain. Cheap food that doesn’t taste good is no bargain.
And you may quote me on that. Or have it tatooed on your chest.
Or wherever you want.
Then I checked at Vanilla.com and their Bourbon vanilla is the same price when you buy a quart. And believe me, it’s amazing. And a quart lasts me about a month. Especially when I’m making all these madeleines.
(Yes, there is shipping, but since if you live somewhere that you don’t get charged 10.21€ for calling customer service, you can afford to spring for it…)
I promised not to tag anyone for a meme anymore. It’s like getting a chain letter. You feel guilty for not answering it, and you feel like an idiot if you do. So I’m not going to tag anyone.
Is that bad?
When my internet service went down a few months ago, I telephoned the company to arrange an appointment for the repair. After three long weeks, service was restored.
Then this came with my phone bill:
In France you get charged to speak to someone in ‘customer service’, at 35 centimes per minute.
Let’s say you’re on hold for 30 minutes. You get a bill for 10.21€, about $12.50.
So next time, I should…
Ode To A Powerball™
By David Lebovitz
I think that I shall never see,
A Powerball™ as lovely as ici.
The rosy ball ensures success
Against my dishes, which entered a mess.
Inside the dishwasher, so full it is scary,
But I just press the button! Could I be more merry?
A sudsy froth, I’m sure it will yield,
Behind the closed door, its fate has been sealed.
An unequaled tablet, whose gift is released,
Round and round goes each cycle, until all has ceased.
Without it I know that my life would be worse,
Washing dishes by hand is indeed quite a curse.
A mess is made daily by fools just like me,
So I give thanks to Calgon, for they make what you see.
(…with apologies to Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918)
140, rue de Belleville