Jun 16, 2009

Italy's chocoland Part II

A week ago I posted the first "episode" of a chocolate saga. In sharing with you my total and unwavering addiction to La Cioccolata, my desire is to share a little about Italy's local chocolate distinctions. Today's cacao capital is a small town in the Sicilian province of Ragusa.

The Duomo of Modica at sunset

We are talking about one of the world's best chocolate types. The legendary Cioccolata di Modica.

It is an extraordinary and unique product manufactured in the small jewel town of Modica. At the very lowest tip of the island of Sicilia, baroque Modica sits perched on a hilltop overlooking a deep gorge and boundless rural panoramas. Trivia digression: Modica was also the birth place of writer Salvatore Quasimodo, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.

Modica’s chocolate is not smooth and refined. It is grainy, and there is no milk chocolate version, just dark and darker. Cioccolato di Modica is a divine powdery, firm and crumbly block that can only be cut by a sharp knife, scattering crumbs of chocolate like those of a crusty loaf of bread. The peculiar dry texture of this treat surprisingly melts in your mouth almost instantly.

The Aztec recipe, as handed down from Meso-American Montezuma himself to the despotic Spanish conquistadores who later controlled Sicilia between the 13th and 15th centuries, requires the crude chocolate to be initially heated to around 40-50°C. When the minimal amount of cocoa butter melts, the basic ingredient can be worked together with cinnamon (or vanilla) and sugar until it is ready to be placed in the rectangular aluminum molds that give the stocky little bars of chocolate their unique shape. Before the chocolate solidifies, these molds are lined up on a large wooden tray that is beaten relentlessly against the thick pale gray marble kitchen table top.
This extraordinary ritual makes a tremendous racket, but actually serves to expel air bubbles and leave what will become the top side of the chocolate bars satiny and smooth.
The near absence of cocoa butter and air, makes this chocolate highly digestible and less fat. After a few seconds of eating, the whiplash of undertaste intoxicatingly sets in, especially in the spiced varieties.
Excellent eaten with tea or a tall glass of milk. After a hefty dinner, a chunk of cioccolato di Modica and a shot of red wine will send you rocketing into oblivion.


Since 1880 the high temple of archetypal chocolate in Modica has been the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. An ceaseless attraction for myriad devotees, local and otherwise, this antique repository of toothsome treasures can be found on Corso Umberto I, the main drag snaking through the hillside on which the town clings like crafted coral.
Flavors range from al naturale, vanilla, cinnamon and spicy peperoncino. More modern varieties include nutmeg, coffee, ginger, sea salt and bergamot essence. Wrapped in the Modican fin de siecle trademark paper, this IGP chocolate is a rare taste bud experience that will change your fancy for chocolate forever.

As a bonus, here's a little something you might want to whip up for a demanding lover or a bored significant other. It is a pre-Columbian recipe for a mole sauce made with chocolate, used to enhance the preparation of white meats. Wear nothing but your sexiest lingerie and assemble:
  • 1 whole chicken, rabbit or lamb - trimmed and cleaned inside and out
  • 24 button onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 glass of robust red wine
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) dark chocolate (from Modica would be best...)
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted almonds, coarsely ground
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, shelled and husked
  • 1/2 liter (2 cups) meat broth (can be made with a bouillon cube)
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of dry thyme
  • Salt & pepper
Massage the salt and pepper into the meat and set aside. In an earthenware vessel, sauté the sliced onion in the butter until golden. Add the meat and brown it too, then add the herbs and wine, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, turning occasionally, until the meat is almost done, then stir in the flour and wet it down with one ladle of broth.
Let the sauce further reduce and add the ground almonds, pine nuts and the crumbled chocolate and finish cooking (you may wish to remove the meat when it is nicely fork tender and reduce the sauce somewhat over high heat). Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve on a bed of red rose petals.


Debauched, you say? You'll thank me later.

24 comments:

  1. "the whiplash of undertaste"

    Wonderful phrase!

    And, my God, woman! A recipe that combines meat and chocolate? If I wasn't already happily married, I'd be on a plane to Italy right now, carrying a diamond.

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  2. Serve on a bed of red rose petals.

    Oh my God, how you must eat.

    I love you Lola and I am glad that you were happy.

    You are a dream dear friend. A lovely dream.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  3. Oh, that recipe sounds like heaven ... I'm going to have to try it..

    I've had some of the chocolate in your post. Someone brought it back them after a trip. rdinary, run of the mill chocoalate no longer tastes the same... :-)

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  4. Sounds so decadently delicious..:))
    Thanks:)

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  5. Oh, how heavenly! It is our wedding anniversary next month - we will not go out to celebrate...I will cook.

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  6. Awww your article made impatiently want a piece of chocolate w/wine, Lola! You are so sweet, and generous how to drive your poor(!) readers crazy -like me;)

    When reading your post, I was in my dreams for a shop for all chocolate lovers, thought maybe you know: Slitti Café, in Monsummano (Pistoia). Ever been to there? See here: http://www.slitti.it

    You enter the shop and begin breathing in coffee and chocolate, hmmm excellent! They produce different types of chocolate and offer quality coffee! On their coffee stand there is a bag of very particular coffee beans: the kopi luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world. On the information leaflet it is said that kopi luwak is the rarest coffee, which originates from the Sumatra island and is produced in very small quantities. Very expensive: with a price tag of over 600 Euros a kg. Oh I don't think I will be able to taste that coffee:(

    Choco greetings to you, have a nice evening under the dark blue skies there in my Roma:)

    xoxo

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  7. i know its been said already, but at "whiplash of undertaste" you had me. why do you do this to me? in the middle of nowhere, no chocolate in sight.

    wishing you well under the dark blue skies!

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  8. I would like to "rocket into oblivion". I winced at grainy, but then got back on board with the melt in your mouth part.

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  9. Okay here's the deal. I will send you a pack of that beautiful smoked salmon in the cedar box in trade for some Modica chocolate.
    Hmmm what do you think?

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  10. I love these chocolate posts. They just make my mouth water.

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  11. Just great. I was adhering to my limited points on Wt. Watchers, and now you have me craving chocolate! Sounds wonderful with wine. **blows kisses** Deborah

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  12. Lola, You certainly know the way into a man's heart.
    Love this sentence: "After a hefty dinner, a chunk of cioccolato di Modica and a shot of red wine will send you rocketing into oblivion."
    and the other phrase mentioned several times by readers as well,"the whiplash of undertaste".
    Brilliant words.
    I am astounded to see how much research you put into these posts - I always love reading them - your Britty buddy who admires your work greatly ~ Eddie

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  13. Mole and lingerie - my kind of cooking. Thanks for spicing up my long work day. This one will be added to my must try soon list.

    Maggie

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  14. you are very generous Lola...
    I hope that all beautiful things find their way to you.

    best wishes
    Ribbon

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  15. Another beautiful chocolate post.

    Stop by my blog for a blog award! And thank you for the comments on mine.

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  16. Hi there Loa

    Now I suppose they all of your avid readers as a reward for their loyalty will be receiving little packages in the mail postmarked Modica....

    Happy days

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  17. My sexiest lingerie is a wool sweater and jeans and I'm afraid the chocolate would never make it to the pot! Cool though. I'm quite sure I've never had anything in the neighbourhood of fine chocolate.

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  18. Lola,
    These chocolate posts are great! Chocolate becomes exponentially sexier and more delicious when it is shared. I only order dessert on dates or when out with friends or family.

    For pairing chocolate with espresso (it doesn't get more perfect) I recommend Poco Dolce. I'm not sure if they'll ship to Italy, but...
    http://www.pocodolce.com
    ...the Aztec Chile with pumpkin seeds is best!

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  19. This dark chocolate is something to indulge in! Thanks for sharing this very interesting recipe. I love all chocolate recipes. The cooking attire sounds great.

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  20. We share a passion. I gave it up for lent and suffered. I have a close encounter with chocolate every night. And any chocolate that is lower in fat yet exquisite in taste has to be for me...

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  21. oh this sounds too divine! Lovely photos as ever, and the dome at sunset, is fabulous. thank you! xx

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  22. I would love to try some of this Antica chocolate. And I love red wine and chocolate too. And Mole - so many regional styles of Mole in Mexico. It is a must every time I travel there. I like to rent a place so that I can shop in the markets and do my own cooking. It is a sensory overload. Italy is still just a dream. Someday!
    Catherine

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  23. mmmm.... grainy chocolate, so much better than creamy...

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  24. Wow, that mole recipe is killer! Serve on a bed of red rose petals. You're so romantic! I've never heard of that Modica chocolate, and I'm fascinated by the process that has roots back with the Aztecs. So fascinating.

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