Roses, lingerie, candlelit dinners, garish-looking stuffed toys, and more – we could prattle on endlessly about the many clichés that come with Valentine’s Day, but the one we can unanimously agree on? Chocolate.
While chocolate is the most recognizable form of cocoa, the beloved crop offers so much more. Much like the ancient Aztecs and Mayans before us, chefs worldwide are now using the likes of cocoa nibs and cocoa powder in a savory context. While the concept hasn’t caught on in Dubai in a big way, one eatery in City Walk by the name of Cocoa Kitchen is championing the use of all things cocoa every step of the way – as evidenced by its name. Here, each dish (be it sweet or savory) is somehow accented with cocoa, proving that this versatile ingredient can be used around the clock.
Of course, Valentine’s Day is a big one on Cocoa Kitchen’s calendar, with the restaurant having created a special set menu that will start with cocoa-butter lobster bisque and end with cherry mousse and chocolate sponge. As for the mains in the middle? We tapped Head Chef Domenico Santagada for both recipes – along with a bonus recipe for you morning people – so you can see first-hand how cocoa has a place at the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table.
Breakfast: Poached Eggs with Crushed Avocado
- Cut and deseed one ripe avocado, scoop out the flesh, and place in a bowl.
- Mix 15 grams of Maldon salt with 15 grams of crushed cocoa nibs.
- Add 15ml of lemon juice and the nibs-salt to the avocado, mixing well to form a smooth paste.
- Boil a liter of water and add in half a cup of white vinegar.
- Crack four eggs into a shallow bowl and gently drop them (one at a time) into the boiling water, carefully wrapping the white around the yolk as it cooks. Cook each egg separately for two and a half minutes, then remove and drain excess liquid.
- To plate, grill two slices of sourdough bread and spread the the avocado paste evenly over them. Place two poached eggs on top of the spread, garnish with chopped chives, and sprinkle some nibs-salt to finish.
Lunch: Cocoa-Crusted Halibut
- Start with a 300-gram filet of halibut that is fresh and skinless, opting for one that feels firm in texture.
- Marinate it with two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, the zest of half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to infuse for about 15 minutes, then steam the halibut for 12 minutes or until tender, leaving its center slightly pink.
- On the side, prepare the crust for the fish by mixing together ten grams of fresh thyme and 20 grams of cocoa nibs – but note that you’ll only sprinkle the crust over the fish once it’s ready to be served in order to retain the crunch of the cocoa nibs.
- To plate the steamed halibut, Chef Santagada recommends serving it over a bed of cauliflower purée and seared artichokes, and topped with a drizzle of béarnaise sauce.
Dinner: Confit Duck Leg
- You’ll need to start a day in advance for this one. Start with two pieces of drake (male duck) leg, each ideally between 250 and 300 grams in weight.
- Prepare the rub on the side by dry-roasting one bay leaf, three pods of juniper, five coriander seeds, five cumin seeds, and five fennel seeds until warm. Mix in 50 grams of cocoa nibs and 20 grams of cocoa powder. Rub the mixture over the legs until covered and refrigerate overnight.
- The following day, place the duck in a pan and cover with 300 grams of clarified butter. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook the duck in an oven at 100° Celsius for five to six hours until tender, ensuring this temperature is maintained throughout.
- Remove the duck out of the liquid and clean it as best as possible to leave behind the rub.
- To prepare a jus using what’s left in the pan, separate the liquid from the fat. In a fresh pan, cook the liquid and a teaspoon of butter on a medium flame for about five minutes or until the mixture reduces.
- To plate the duck confit, serve it with seasonal vegetables cooked over a medium flame – baby zucchini, baby leeks, and romanesco cauliflower pair well with this dish. Spoon the jus over the duck and vegetables, and serve hot.
The Valentine’s Day set menu at Cocoa Kitchen is priced at AED 250 per couple. For more details, call (+971) 4 343 2506.