Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Valentine’s Day, Passion is an Ingredient in Spiced Rose Chocolate Pudding

I was in a bleh kind of mood this week. No energy, no joie de vivre, just bleh. Nothing I read interested me. I tried watching TV and it left me cold. I made a favorite dish and it was bleh –– it wasn’t that it was bad –– it was just tasteless. I can’t say for sure if the dish really tasted off or that my taste was on a dull setting but the result was the same, BLEH.

It got me to thinking about how much of ourselves (for better or worse) we put into our cooking –– are we the je ne se quoi that transcends ingredients and brings our food out of the commonplace into the sublime (or makes them bleh)? Are we an ingredient? Once I walked down that road, there was no turning back.

When I started thinking about food that’s full of magic –– food that makes a bad mood better and turns sour faces all smiles like in Babette’s Feast (that I wrote about HERE) I started feeling less bleh. When I thought of Like Water for Chocolate, another one of my favorite food books/films, I was feeling all warm inside and the blehs had disappeared entirely. I rented the movie.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since I first read it. I think 3 friends gave me a copy when it came out, each gift accompanied with sly smiles and the universal “this book is so you.” I enjoyed the book but it was the concept of food seasoned with emotion that really got me. I really believe it’s true. You feel bleh, you cook bleh. You are madly in love –– your food is full of heavenly magic and passion.

When the main character, Tita, is given pink roses (that turn red as she holds them) by her beloved, she cooks a dinner that is so full of love that passionate spirits at the table who eat the perfumed morsels burn with it (her beloved and even her sister's passions are enflamed with each bite). Quail, roses and love –– most especially love, make for a potent meal:

Isn’t that how we wish our food would always affect our beloved?

I can’t promise you that my chocolate pudding will do this for you –– but you will be well on your way. As Tita tells a neighbor who asks for the recipe for her stuffed chilies, love is the secret ingredient.

The recipe for my pudding was a happy discovery. Its base is an ice cream recipe from the brilliant Madeleine Kamman (who I wrote about HERE). I had to make it when I saw it had hot chili in cold ice cream.

Trouble is, as it cooled and I tasted it, I loved it warm –– I mean REALLY loved it warm. The next time I made it I skipped making it into ice cream and just made pudding. It's a pudding that's rich, dark, chocolate with a warmth that caresses your throat with each spoonful. The touch of lime, hot pepper and cinnamon is very Mexican (Kamman called it Montezumas Ice Cream after all) and so appropriate for a tribute to Like Water for Chocolate.

The biggest change I’ve made is adding the scent of roses to my romantic mix made with my favorite Aftelier's Rose Absolute (but you can use rosewater) and holding it overnight for the chocolate to bloom and mature in the mix (a trick from Brillat-Savarin). Let it return to room temperature and eat (or if you can’t wait, do it earlier in the day and don’t refrigerate).

I think when you share it with your Valentine, you will have warm thoughts as well for like Tita’s cooking the dark chocolate will woo you as it too is “voluptuously, ardently fragrant and utterly sensual.” It is rich as can be, but don’t deny yourself this once. You will find this recipe is a wonderful guilty pleasure to be savored with your loved one or on your own when you watch the last episode of Downton Abbey.

Rose Chocolate Pudding (based on a recipe by Madeleine Kamman) serves 4

1 c milk
1 cup cream
5 egg yolks
¼ c plus 2 T sugar
2 ½ oz chocolate (60 to 70% is best) chopped fine
½ t cinnamon
grated rind of 1 lime
1/4 to ½ t chipotle pepper (or cayenne) to taste (I like the smokiness of the chipotle)
1 -2 drops Aftelier Rose Absolute (that you can get HERE or 1-2 t rosewater to taste
pinch of salt

Scald the milk and cream. Beat the yolks and sugar together. Add the milk and cream to the yolk mixture, stirring all the time.

Rinse out the milk saucepan and let the mixture cool a few minutes before putting it back on the heat. Thicken over medium high heat, stirring constantly. When the temperature hits 175º, remove from the heat and add the chocolate and cinnamon and pepper. Keep stirring over a low heat until the chocolate is melted.

Strain the mixture, rubbing on the chocolate ( I often put the strainer back in the mixture to moisten the remnants of the strainer. Wipe the bottom of the strainer.

Add the lime zest and salt.

Put plastic wrap over the surface of the pudding and cool to room temperature.

Whisk the pudding and add the rose just before serving.

I love this sentiment, don't you? We go on as our recipes go on.

Happy Valentines!


pam said...

I agree with you completely. The cooking that I do when I'm tired and don't feel like it, always seems to taste pretty blah. But when I am happy and loving every moment, it's magic. And speaking of magic, I believe this pudding is too!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Deana:
We should certainly concur with the view which you put forward here that food cooked with feeling, if not true love, will always taste so much better and therefore be so much more enjoyed and remembered.

'Babette's Feast' remains one of our all time favourite films. And we are certainly no cooks!!

mandy said...

I love what you say about the magic of cooking with care Deana, and thank you so much for including my Rose essence! You pour the same love & concern into your blog, and it really shines through in a special way!
xo Mandy

Sarah said...

It has to be true. I remember soon after I started cooking in my new community everyone swooned about how good my food was, but so few had actually ever tasted it. I just spoke about it with such passion that they knew it had to be true. Love this rich, rich chocolate ice cream cum pudding. Great idea.

Lucy said...

You've outdone yourself!

Diane said...

Anything with chocolate in would woo me :-) I am sure if you put love into your cooking it always tastes better. On the odd occasion when N cooks it always tastes brilliant despite him complaining about everything! Have a great day Diane

Diane Balch said...

Found you from Foodgawker... I love Like Water for Chocolate can't wait to try this recipe.

Linda said...

I have not been around much these days...i too know that "bleh" feeling...i just put meringue for a Pavlova in the oven for my Valentine....i think you may have helped me out of it! The blehs I mean! Your pudding looks so sensual and beautiful...of course I m in love with the cup!
Happy Valentines Day!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Deana, how this speaks to my heart as well as my stomach!

When we saw this film WAAY back when it first came out, it was just on the heels of falling in love with Babettte's Feast and the eye-opening concept that cooking too is a creative process transcending just consuming. This story is also close to my heart as I am of Mexican descent.

I can remember ONE MEAL, out of 31 years of marriage, that tasted exceptionally special. I knew what I did to this particular dish. My husband noticed immediately that it had a certain taste, texture and richness to it, as I also noticed. I knew what it was. I had taken much CARE in adding the ingredients at just the right time during the cooking process, I finely chopped the onions rather than just throw in chunks, and I paid much closer attention to what I was doing. HENCE, it was love that was the ingredient that saved the day. We have lived busy lives, resulting in fast meals and thrown together parts to hopefully make a whole, but a real meal of love takes much care. Sounds like love, doesn't it?

I have to applaud you for your GORGEOUS comment on my post. I agree; the French have a way of getting to the POINT of a matter in such an elegant way. Being a lover of language, this is why French was my choice of language to study. But what I loved the most was your analogy of love, being almost a geographical entity with its beautiful landscape of valleys, chasms and peaks. That's love, and that is for dang certain.


Barbara said...

You made me smile. I loved those books, then the movies. (books almost always better than the movies as you use your imagination) Going to have to look at them again. It's been a while.
You chose a delight to delight your Valentine with, Deana. So beautifully presented in that exquisite cup, too.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I have gone through periods like that! And will keep this beautiful recipe on standby for such moments-eaten of course while watching Babette's Feast :D

Frank said...

I never read the book but I did really enjoy the movie. Saw it in Paris many years ago. One of the great food-themed movies. Brings back memories…

You're so right about what we bring to our cooking. I can really taste the difference in my food depending on the mood I'm in—when I'm down, when I'm feeling ambitious, when I'm just plain tired. It all gets reflected somehow in the final product...