Pictured above is the star attraction from our most recent pitch-in at work: a fondue fountain filled with rich, creamy, sinful chocolate. This enchanting appliance belongs to a kindly grandmother on my team who decided to spoil us with its presence, which made for a celebratory change of pace from the doldrums of day-old grocery donuts, lookalike veggie trays, and a thousand bags of unopened chips. Not one person was the kind of killjoy to complain that this setup had virtually no connection to the “Mexican” theme we’d voted on for the pitch-in.
She also brought skewers and an assortment of snacks and finger foods that paired well with molten chocolate: strawberries, pineapple, pretzel sticks, Ritz crackers, Rice Krispie squares, and marshmallows either plain or lightly breaded in coconut. She took good care of us. On the other hand, she also couldn’t stop us from dunking other people’s pitch-in foods inside those flowing chocolate falls.
Case in point: the dessert I brought. In keeping with the theme, I went to Betty Crocker’s website and grabbed one of their four recipes for Mexican Brownies. Longtime MCC readers may recall brownies are my pitch-in specialty, but this variant calls for spicing up the batter with cayenne pepper and chopped dark chocolate. The taste was okay, a less sweet version of my usual critically acclaimed baked results, until roughly ten seconds into each bite when that stealthy cayenne would emerge from hiding and ambush the taste buds with sharp, pointy spears. Not a terrible or gross effect, just unusual. At least two other people gave me their thumbs-up, so I like to think I was on the right track.
But I’m a big fan of process improvement. That’s why I tried drowning one in fondue for science. Now we were in business. The extra sugar cushioned the cayenne impact and brought the brownie closer to an enlightened state of awesomesauce.
Most of my coworkers brought casseroles, salads, and beef- and chicken-based entrees that didn’t lend themselves to a downpour of unplanned, non-spicy molé sauce. Sure, their dishes were fine in and of themselves (particularly one heavily cheese-topped taco casserole for which I had to ask the recipe), but they weren’t conducive to fondue augmentation.
Then someone wondered aloud, perhaps half-jokingly, if the sauce would pair well with the bacon-wrapped smoked sausages from one of the crockpots. This being an uneventful Friday afternoon, I treated their musing as a dare and plunged a few pork-on-pork packages into the pretty pumping proto-pudding.
Final analysis: sweet/salty combinations are a popular foodie trend, especially chocolate-covered bacon, but with these Cocoa-Coated Pigs, I could see why those Li’l Smokies are never invited to the dessert party. Maybe if the disparate foodstuffs had marinated together, or if the fondue chocolate were darker, if the bacon had been loaded with double the sodium, or if dessert-topped meat dishes weren’t taboo in our timid society beyond the world of pancakes, this saccharine snack could’ve been salvaged and/or patented. But it was fun to try. Now if only we can convince our fondue provider to bring her fountain in for every future pitch-in till she retires, and/or if she’ll consider donating the fountain to us after that, perhaps our next fondue forays will be even better. Or possibly worse. Sometimes that’s just how science works.