Cocoa-crusted pork chop with garlic, leek and hazelnut gremolata
The boring pork chop gets an exciting make-over! Pork and cocoa sounded like a weird mix to me at first. Using cocoa is usually fully restricted to sweet dishes, baked goods and desserts. In Mexico however cocoa is used in the traditional mole recipes in which a whole bunch of ingredients make up incredibly complex but delicious sauces.
I first heard of chocolate covered bacon as a novelty food on US fairs. To me this sounded so intriguing that I even used it in the research of my master thesis about novel foods (>>SCIENCE). The salt from the bacon brings out the taste of the chocolate even more (think of salted caramel!). Because they are both rich and fatty their flavors just melt together beautifully. What would you think of a chocolate cupcake with a crispy bacon sprinkle? You can find this and other intriguing combinations in my new book Flavor Math – A guide to understanding and creating delicious flavor combinations.
Personally, I advise to use unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe because it enhances the flavor of the meat, rather than overpowering it.
Pork also loves onion, garlic and nutty flavors, which makes this sauce just a perfect addition to the rich and complex cocoa pork chops. Whenever I think of a semi-smooth sauce like this in my head I call this a pesto. Technically however a pesto needs cheese in it, so this sauce would be more classified as a gremolata.
(Main meal for 4, if accompanied by a salad and some starchy goodness)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small leek
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 80g hazelnuts
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 4 bone-in pork chops
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 3 tablespoons butter
Blitz your sauce and fry some chops
Chop or crush the hazelnuts into chunks. Put a skillet with high rim on medium heat and roast the hazelnut pieces until fragrant. Remove from pan and reserve.
Finely dice the garlic. Clean the leek and slice into very thin rings.
Put the skillet on the heat again. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and leek. Season generously with salt and pepper, then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The mix should not color too much.
Transfer the cooked leek to a kitchen machine. Add the hazelnuts, lemon juice and 3 more tablespoons of olive oil, then blitz until well combined but still slightly chunky.
Mix flour and cocoa powder together with a good pinch of both salt and pepper in a deep plate.
Pat the pork chops dry with kitchen towels, and coat with the seasoned cocoa-flour on all sides. Shake off any excess.
Put a skillet on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the butter followed by the chops. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, flip carefully and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. Take the chops out of the pan and let rest for 3 minutes.
Slather your cocoa-crusted chop with the gremolata and dig in!
Have you ever tried pork with cocoa or chocolate before? What is the weirdest flavor combination that you ever came across? Share your thoughts and suggestions with us in the comments below!
PS: This recipe is inspired by the idea that pork shares chemical flavor compounds with cocoa, garlic, leek and hazelnuts. That’s why they work so well together. Check out James Briscione’s book on food pairing if you are interesting in digging deeper into this!