Well, it has been quite some time since my last confession. There is this little project, which now that spring has sprung is really heating up the family to-do list. It's spring everywhere, of course, so there are the winter clothes to be dealt with, and the pruning of the blackberries so that, come summer (and come it will! I hear it gaining on us now!) a pint of blood need not be exchanged for each quart of berries.
There are the sheep to be shorn.
And then a good amount of wool to be handled.
Spring is full up with cleaning and weeding and pruning and sorting.
And then there is grief. Grief is its own season.
All in all, there has not been a whole lot of intentional cooking going on. Survival cooking has more been the theme. I have been wondering if maybe I forgot how to cook, or how to enjoy it anyway. I have certainly been a bit dull in the tastebuds.
But then, suddenly, there was this chocolate bar, which a friend brought home from here, a place I wrote about way back here, and to which place I urged said friend on her recent trip to that calorie-dense city. I like to share, generally, but I do not like to share this chocolate bar. And other than a dark 7 months when a migraine turned me right off the stuff (it's normally my drug of choice), I like to snarf up a good amount of chocolate, too--but this one I have been meting out in tiny bites to myself. I have never made a bar of chocolate last this long.
The friend, who is the same friend who happens to have a pipeline of exceptional Greek olive oil running into her house, wanted to recreate the little mind-blowing combination of flavors in that chocolate bar for her husband's birthday, so she googled her up a recipe.
One nice thing about this dessert is that you don't really have to make it. You can take a little hunk of fine chocolate and some great bread dipped in superb olive oil and a flake of fine salt and achieve more or less the same heart-fluttering taste explosion. But another nice thing about it is that it is not very difficult, and is quite special, and only a little bit of it needs to be eaten by anyone, and they will more than likely stand still and swoon with their eyes closed if you give it to them. It is one of those things that demands that you buy the absolute best possible versions of each of the few things it contains, and it rewards you well for the expense.
It has a lot going for it.
The chocolate mixture you create here is kind of like a ganache, and kind of like a dense chocolate mousse that you don't bother to whip and aerate. Any old ganache would probably do the trick, if you can't be bothered with egg-stirring.
As I heated the milk, I sort of accidentally went down to the basement and hunted around in the cabinet until I found my jar of dried guajillo chiles and then dropped one of those into the milk. It is lily-gilding. Not even a little bit necessary. But highly recommended. If I could tolerate the combination of orange zest and chocolate, which I really don't like but am willing to concede brings pleasure to others, I bet it would gild the lily nicely too.
chocolate, olive oil & salt: a little dance for the mouth
serves many; adapted from here
for the chocolate:
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 6 T sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 c whole milk
- 1 dried guajillo chile pepper, optional, torn open
- 6oz fine dark chocolate, chopped
to assemble & serve:
- excellent olive oil
- sea salt flakes
Beat the egg, egg yolk and 3T of the sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined and smooth. Set this bowl, a Pyrex measuring cup and a small strainer near the stove.
Bring the milk, the cream, 3T of sugar and the chile pepper to a simmer in a heavy pot. Simmer briefly, abusing the pepper with a spoon so it releases its heat into the milk. Increase the heat slightly so that the mixture reaches a boil and turn off the heat. Strain the mixture into the measuring cup, but hang on to the pot.
Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring all the while. When it has all been added, pour the combination back into the pot and dump the chocolate into the now-vacant bowl. Return the pot to a low heat. Heat, stirring, just until the mixture thickens slightly. If you have a working thermometer, you are aiming for about 180 degrees; if you don't, just watch for that slight thickening. Either way, do not stop stirring even for a second and DO NOT let it boil. This heating step takes about two minutes, for reference.
Pour the hot egg mixture over the chocolate, let it stand a moment, and then stir, baby, stir. A grubby-looking milky mixture will transform before your eyes into a silky bit of loveliness. Once that happens, cover it and chill it completely; at least a couple of hours and this is certainly something you could make a day or more in advance of when you plan to eat it.
At serving time, use a soup spoon to scoop up about a tablespoon of the mixture, and do a little cha-cha between this spoon and a second one until you have a nice oval (that's a quenelle you have there). Set one or two ovals into a tiny dish, and let them stand at room temperature to get the chill off (they will taste better); then carefully pour about a tablespoon of olive oil around (but not over) the little dumplings, and drop a very few grains of salt on top.