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:
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.