World's Best Hot Chocolate

Two weeks ago, I spent an incredibly relaxing and snowy weekend in a cabin with good friends. Old Man Winter kept it cold outside, but the warmth by the fire was welcomed by all. After some wonderful food (thanks again, bone/davis), I prepared everyone some hot chocolate. Not the kind you can buy in small packets, but real hot chocolate. The kind with actual chocolate. I also added some cayenne pepper to enhance the flavor. While I believe I added a wee bit more cayenne than I should have, I have since corrected my formula to a tamer, and more pleasant concoction. 

The original recipe comes from the very great, and very Swiss, FX. He runs FXCuisine, which is a great source of inspiration. His writing, photos, and food have been the basis for some of my dishes. For the ease of the reader, I have converted his recipe for hot chocolate, with a few delicious tweaks. Directions can read on his page. Enjoy. This makes 8 large, or 16 regular servings.

12 oz. sugar
8 oz. cocoa powder
32oz. 60% cocoa chocolate chips
16 cups water

To which you should also add: 1/2 - 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper.
And if it is really cold outside, a healthy splash or whiskey/whisky or brandy never hurt either.


Apple and Potato Gratin

Ahhhh.........comfort food. Welcome back into my life. You are such a wonderful companion during the winter months. You make my apartment smell wonderful and make me forget of any worries I might be having. You could very vell be one of my best friends. What have you brought me today?

Pink lady apples and red skinned potatoes? I like your style. With a little cheese, this could make a pretty delicious gratin, even if I am going to eat you for breakfast. Maybe wash you down with a little hot chocolate later. Today is starting to look pretty good....

1 large apple
1 large red skinned potato
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Thinly slice potatoes (with a very sharp knife or a mandoline) and place in a large bowl of water too remove excess starches. Thinly slice apples (same cutting method as above) and reserve. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Start alternating slices of apple and potato in the skillet until the bottom is covered.

Pour the heavy cream over top, as well as the shredded cheddar cheese. Add a sprinkling of salt, cover with tinfoil, and bake in the oven for about thirty minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove the tinfoil to brown the cheese until golden brown. Serve warm.

This recipe only makes one layer of the gratin for a quick breakfast. For a more substantial meal, feel free to make many layers and adjust cooking time as necessary.


Broiled Endive with Walnut Ricotta and Rigatoni

Sometimes you don't need a lot of ingredients to make excellent food. The above dish has literally has eight ingredients. And that includes water, salt, and pepper. In addition to only the bare essentials, you also barely need any time to make it. I had everything ready to go well before the pasta was done. 

12 oz. ricotta cheese
2 heads belgian endive, cut into thin wedges
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 ladle of pasta water
11/2 oz. parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler. Bring enough salted water to cook the rigatoni to a boil. Add pasta. While pasta is cooking, chop walnuts, and combine with ricotta and parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Set this aside.

In a flameproof pan, place endive (lightly coated in olive oil and a pinch of salt) under the broiler until tender, but do not burn. Don't go too far from the broiler and keep and eye on it! Stir one ladleful of pasta water into the ricotta and stir to combine.  Drain cooked pasta and mix with walnut ricotta mixture and endive. Serve warm.


Lost in Translation

While this doesn't have anything to do with any particular recipe, I did stumble across this great phrasing (courtesy of Google Translate from it's original Swedish) while doing some food research:

"Mix down the orange shell and let the batter swell like a moment. Bake in the world iron with a little butter."

I couldn't write that if I tried. Sometimes misunderstanding is a wonderful thing.


Lobster Risotto

January has a tendency to make me crave a warm bowl of just about anything. Oatmeal for breakfast, soup for lunch, and _______ for dinner. It almost doesn't matter what it is as long as it is comforting and warm in a bowl. Chili tends to work nicely, but I prefer chili in February when it is the coldest. This time I decided to turn to risotto. Being rich and creamy, risotto may be one the great foods of winter. It is also easy to make: you DO NOT have to stir risotto constantly. A little stirring is needed, but gone are the days worn out arms. 

Risotto is great with only a little shallot and cheese, but this risotto needs to be a little special. So I added a small amount of lobster to give the dish an extra boost on the richness scale. Someone page Robin Leach, because rice just got a whole lot richer.

1 cup arborio or other short grained rice
1 qt. chicken stock plus 1 cup white wine, simmering
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp butter
6 oz. lobster meat
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded
chives, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat butter until melted over a medium flame. Add minced shallot and gently cook until translucent, but not browned. Add rice and cook gently until kernels begin to become about halfway translucent. Add a ladleful of stock/wine mixture to rice and stir to combine. You may stop stirring for the time being.  

In another pan , gently cook the lobster meat in any method of your choice. You may poach if you have some court boullion on hand. A gentle saute would also work. You could even oil poach if you liked. Cook until just shy of being done and remove from heat. Chop.

Meanwhile, once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, add another ladleful of stock. Stir to combine. Keep adding stock only after the rice has absorbed the previous ladleful, stirring briefly with each addition. When the last ladleful is added, added chopped lobster meat and remove heat. Cover and let sit for five minutes. Add shaved Parmesan, chopped chives, and salt and pepper. Serve in a warm bowl.


Finding More Time In '09

2009 calendar from Orange Beautiful

At a New Year's Eve party last night (thanks again Matt and Sara!), several people asked me if I had any resolutions for the year. Given recent holiday travels, holiday dinners, and holiday stresses I haven't had much time to sit down and figure out any resolutions I would like to adopt.

Until this morning. Upon checking this blog, I realized that I have only updated 25 times (including this one) since the first post last March. I feel like I could have done a lot better. I can make excuses all I want, but ultimately, I just didn't post as often as I easily could have. So here's my resolution: I'm going to impose a one post per week minimum. Hopefully, I will still end the year with more than 52 posts, but 52 would be the minimum.

I'm looking forward to my new posting schedule as well as the new year. 2008 had it's ups and downs, but a new year is starting with endless possibilities. Here's hoping that it will be a great year for everyone! Cheers!