Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beef With Spicy Cocoa Gravy, Double Take

When Mel added this recipe to her pick list, I was skeptical. Mel loves mole (the spicy cocoa Mexican dish) but after trying it and another dish with a similar ingredient, I learned I don't like adobo peppers. They tend to bring along with them a heavy smoky flavor (cuminesque) and I'm not a heavy cumin kind of gal so at least my taste buds are consistent. Mel knows that I don't love cumin. I'll use a little but I often reduce it in recipes. As it turns out, her husband, Bender, doesn't care much for cumin either. I scanned the recipe and was relieved to see no adobo peppers. It did call for cumin but I could always adjust that. I decided, sure, I could try this.

I noticed that the cook time is a bit lengthy compared to a 30 minute wonder. It takes over an hour and a half. Since we had another dish selected that took about the same time, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I'll show you the other dish in a week or so on a future double take but you'll get a sneak peak in the photos.

Having made it, I would give you a couple words of caution about the beef with spicy cocoa gravy:

1) DO NOT DOUBLE the sauce. Holy cow, I might have accidentally doubled an ingredient and decided to solve the problem by doubling the rest of the sauce. Don't do this unless you have a gravy-loving cat. It turns out Sookie (my female cat) snubbed the gravy but Jack (male cat who has very different food preferences from Sookie) loved the gravy. He refused to eat the tomatoes and the bell pepper and onion (oops, I didn't think about the bell pepper and onion, that shouldn't be offered to a cat). Lucky for me Jack was smart enough to leave that in a pile to the side and enjoyed lapping up the gravy from his bowl.

2) I would encourage you to reduce the cumin and possibly add some cocoa to the gravy mixture if you want to have even a hint of chocolate taste.

3) Don't expect this to taste like chocolatey beef (unless you do some serious cocoa increases). It really will taste more like a chunks of roast beef in a gravy which has a Mexican influence.

4) A little goes a long way with this recipe. Their suggested portion size is apparently double mine. I apparently ate about 1/2 c at a time while the original called for 1 c. servings. Judge how much to make based on how much your family eats. I didn't notice the portion size was so large. It would've been pretty near impossible to cut this recipe into 1/4 though.

Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy 

Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy (Adapted from Culinary in the Country)

Total Time: 1 hr 30 min.


1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
3/4 teaspoons cumin (I'd use 1/4 tsp in the future..I just don't enjoy much smoky flavor)
3/4 teaspoons granulated garlic
3/4 teaspoons oregano
3/4 teaspoons paprika
1/16 teaspoon cinnamon (or you can just use a pinch)
3/4 pounds trimmed top round steak, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine (or red grape juice or cherry grape juice, whatever's handy)
1/2 of a 14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/16 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How To:

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, coriander, ancho powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, paprika and cinnamon. Add beef and toss to coat. Remove beef and set aside. Stir in flour to the remaining spices and return beef - toss well to evenly coat the pieces.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef mixture to pan and sauté until brown on all sides - about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove beef from pan and add remaining oil. Repeat browning with the remaining beef mixture - remove when browned.

Add onions and bell pepper into the Dutch oven and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes tender. Pour in wine and tomatoes - cook 3 minutes. Mix in beef broth, salt and black pepper. Add the browned beef back into the pan - cover, reduce heat and simmer until the beef is tender - about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Makes 6 - 1/2 c. servings


I liked it pretty well the first serving. I was shocked that it didn't taste like I expected though. I was expecting a melding of the cocoa into the gravy to give a slight chocolate taste...but no. It tasted like roast beef with peppers and cumin. It reheated well and I enjoyed it for lunch the next day. I'm generally good about eating leftovers til they're gone but if the leftovers become overwhelming, I get sick of them. I eat them but don't enjoy it. I tried changing the flavor by adding some soy sauce and steamed broccoli. That helped. I wouldn't rate this as my favorite recipe on earth but it was something different. I did wind up eating this 6 times in one week though and I feel like that's a bit much for a half recipe.

I'd have to rate this as I'd-make-it-by-request-but-not-without-having-at-least-4-people-to-help-eat-it. I'd still stick with half a recipe for four people.

Pop over to Mel's to see what she thought of this dish at Fabulously Fun Food.

Sookie snubbed the gravy. She also decided to increase the cushiness of her cat bed by knocking over a package of Charmin. Cats have their own way of doing things.


  1. Hello Pretty Kitty! I can't wait to see you again in September!

    Ya know, now that I've looked at your ingredients list, I think I'd up the cinnamon. It got completely lost in this dish. Maybe that was because I used salsa instead of wine? I dunno. Could you tell there was cinnamon in it?

  2. I love when cocoa is inserted in a savory dish. It blows my mind to think something sweet could be so good savory.
    Great recipe. Thanks Tabitha!