I had a moment tonight when I felt like I was in Kitchen Stadium competing in Battle: Really Need to Go to the Grocery Store and Stock Up. In my mind, the Chairman said did his karate chop over a steel lid (or in my case the fridge) and revealed the secret ingredients: a few onions, potatoes, ears of corn, and apples, a screaming baby more hard to please than Jeffrey Steingarten and Anthony Bourdain put together and a wife in a bad mood who walked over to the slowly growing pile of mirepoix and said “Whatever you make needs to have chocolate.” (Not sure how those two fit under the lid. Good thing there was no octopus.)
It was not just the challenge of throwing together something nutritious and tasty to a two year old that made me feel like there was a chairman with an open mind and an empty stomach waiting to taste my dish. It was when I had a skillet going, a stock pot of wine bubbling, and an oven full of roasted vegetables that I knew I had been watching Iron Chef, the show renowned the world across for giving birth to some funky dishes, way too much. In the oven, I had roasted veggies that I was going to turn into stew using a classic gravy recipe, a hash made from finely chopped apples, potatoes, and corn. These are not exactly normal dishes, but not that odd. No, the thing that made me stop and think Iron Chef: I was poaching potatoes in a chocolate wine sauce.
When my wife made her remark about chocolate and walked out of the kitchen, inspiration (and mischief) hit me in the foot (strangely it was about the time I dropped my peeler.) I uncorked a bottle of sweet red I bought in Herman, MO, threw in 1/4 cup of Hershey’s chocolate powder (no hate mail please), a cup of white sugar, and a large potato I had turned into small slices with a peeler. I boiled the potatoes until they were done and the wine had boiled down to the point it was runny syrup. (Is there a culinary term for that?)
I admit, it was the need to make my wife happy and get revenge on her at the same time that produced this dish, but it gave me a shot of confidence. I felt my food was worthy to join the ranks of Salmon Roe Ice cream and natto beans cooked in soda or Casey’s sriracha ice cream from Top Chef.
However, my wife, one of the two final judges of the meal, had the last laugh when she pronounced the dish “not chocolately enough” despite a remarkable balance between the red wine and the chocolate.
Which is okay. All I needed was a little smoke and melodramatic music, maybe a little commentary, and I would have felt like I was competing for the people’s acclaim and fame forever.