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COOKING ON DEADLINE: Recipe for beef mole with butter baguette

This Jan. 27, 2014 photo shows Beef Mole with a Buttery Baguette in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

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This Jan. 27, 2014 photo shows Beef Mole with a Buttery Baguette in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Like it or not, it's best to simply embrace that chocolate must play a key role in any Valentine's Day dinner.

But a chocolate tart or truffles or bonbons or even chocolate-dipped strawberries are so... cliche. Maybe think a little outside the chocolate box this year. Maybe slip the chocolate in as a savory component to a steak dinner so rich and so delicious, you'll be tempted to abandon silverware as you eat it.

And you can. Though mole dishes such as this beef version often are served over rice, I've instead paired it with a warmed, butter-drenched baguette. Because torn hunks of crusty bread are perfect for sopping up the delicious sauce the beef tips are cooked in.

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BEEF MOLE WITH BUTTERY BAGUETTE

Start to finish: 40

Servings: 3

12-inch baguette, halved lengthwise

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 pound beef sirloin tips, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup almond butter

1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1/2 shallot

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pinch ground cloves

1/2 cup water

Salt

Hot sauce, to taste

1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Spread the butter over the cut sides of both halves of the baguettes. Set the baguettes, cut side up, in the oven to warm.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the beef and sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set aside off the heat.

In a blender combine the almond butter, tomatoes, garlic, shallot, cocoa powder, cinnamon, black pepper, pepper flakes, cloves and water. Puree until smooth, then add to the beef. Bring the beef and sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Season the beef with salt and hot sauce, then divide it between serving plates. Top with scallions. Accompany with the warmed baguette.

Nutrition information per serving: 670 calories; 400 calories from fat (60 per cent of total calories); 45 g fat (16 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 120 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 33 g protein; 810 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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