The Discovery of Chocolate, Taste of Mexico Stew

Our current Cook the Books Club selection, hosted by Simona of Briciole, is The Discovery of Chocolate, by James Runcie.

In this fantastical tale, chocolate is indeed discovered, by Europeans anyway. Based on historical events, this is the very inventive, and frequently implausibly fleshed-out, tale of one, Diego de Godoy, a young Spaniard who joins up with a ship bound from Spain for the exploration and plunder of the New World with Hernan Cortes. Diego embarks on the journey, to impress and hopefully, win the right to marry his young and rather superficial Spanish sweetheart, despite his low class. She will wait for him to return with a treasure from the New World, something fabulous and worthy of her beauty and love.

Though Diego’s treasure turns out to be chocolate, he also finds true love when he meets Ignacia, a native woman in Mexico. This meeting leads him on an incredible, five hundred year journey, due to an "elixir of life" she mixes into his cocoa drink.

Unfortunately, the first 50 pages or so, describing the author's post adolescent sexual preoccupations, and the sadly true depredations of those Spanish conquistadors, totally put me off. However, I did decide to return and finish the book a few weeks later, albeit with reservations. I have the occasional bad habit of taking a peek at the end of books early on, just to reassure myself, and here discovered that the novel's second paragraph is a misleading summing up of his life, "I have lost all trace of my friends and family and have been separated from the only woman that I have ever loved." Suffice it to say that Runcie's debut tale does end well, though I much prefer his later writing.

The book was packed with food mentions, so plenty of inspiration for us at Cook the Books! Everything from chocolate in all its many guises, to European goodies encountered and created on Diego's journeys. Did you know that he invented Hersey's Kisses?? Truly.

My response, aside from a Chocolate Rum Soda (pictured above), and concocted from home-crafted Creme de Cacao, was to make something inspired by the New World of Mexico. A stew, with lots of veggies, spices and pork loin, all thickened a bit with cornmeal.

Here's my recipe, which serves 2 or 3, depending on appetite:

Chili Pork Loin Stew

1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 Anaheim chili pepper, sliced (or hotter chilies if preferred)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 kohlrabi, chopped in chunks
2 carrots, chopped into wedges
1 potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoon chili powder (Mexican style)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (or more as needed) chicken (beef or vegetable) broth
1 heaping tablespoon bone broth (concentrated)
1/2 cup tomato sauce, or pureed tomatoes
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 cup pork loin, cut in bite size chunks (mine was already perfectly cooked sous-vide, so I added at the end)

Heat the fat in your pot, on medium, add in the onions and saute a few minutes, then add garlic, chili pepper, spices (and meat if yours is not already cooked). Note: I could have added cocoa here, but didn't - don't let that stop you. Stir fry for 5 more minutes, then add in the remaining vegetables, stirring well a few more minutes before adding the chicken and bone broths.

Simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Then stir in the cornmeal, mixed with about a half cup of extra broth and the tomato sauce.  Stir and and if you are using previously prepared meat, add at his point. Continue cooking to thicken the stew. Taste to see if you want more seasoning, more broth, etc., stirring whilst sipping your Chocolate Rum Soda, Mojito, or Margarita.

Chocolate Rum Soda

1 1/2 jiggers Creme de Cacao
1/2 jigger dark rum
dash Cointreau
tonic soda & ice

Whisk together the creme de cacao, rum and Cointreau, add as much ice as you think necessary and top up with the tonic soda. Stir. Garnish with cilantro, culantro or mint.

We enjoyed our taste of South of the border stew, with a small salad and a small beer. This post is my contribution to our Cook the Books Club for the current selection, and you have until March 31st if you too want to read the book and cook up something it inspires. I'll also send this to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event and to the March Foodies Read Challenge.


Debra Eliotseats said...

That stew looks amazing, Claudia!!!! There were lots of savory options to choose from. Love the flavors you included here! :)

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

That stew looks amazing. I was tempted to go savory as well. There were so many choices available. I'm definitely trying that chocolate rum drink too. Cheers.

Tina said...

I agree with Debra, those flavor combos are great. Love that soda.

Beth F said...

Ha! My first thought was also, That stew looks amazing! So there you have it -- two votes yes! Too bad the book itself was a little rock. I'm thinking that cocktail will be perfect this summer ...

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

I read the book and enjoyed all of it! I am hoping to still write a review and come up with a recipe before the deadline..Both of your recipes look delicious

jama said...

Yum, wish I had some of that stew right this minute. Looks hearty, savory, and comforting. And yay for chocolate drinks!

Carole said...

Chocolate rum soda - wowee! Cheers from carole's chatter

Stacie said...

Hmmm...I'll have to try that Chocolate Rum Soda. Sounds delish!

Jackie McGuinness said...

This sounds good!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

Oh I have to try the Chocolate Rum Soda.

Simona Carini said...

Love both recipes, Claudia. I like the mix of vegetables to go with the pork and am intrigued by the idea of making Creme de Cacao at home. I don't drink, but love the aroma of some alcoholic beverages. Thank you for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books :)

cathy said...

Pork stew in its many variations enlivens our dinner table often. I like the concept of the Chocolate Rum Soda too -- so many choices....

Lynda Hardy said...

mmm - I love stew of all sorts and this one looks wonderful!

Camilla M. Mann said...

This looks delicious. And while I am not a huge fan of rum, I might have to give your soda a try. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Your stew & run soda look amazing - I'm with you - I was very put off by the beginning of the book (and bored senseless by the middle) but the end was good

Claudia said...

Camilla, maybe tequila?