Every Valentine's Day, our thoughts turn to love, and flowers, and well, chocolate.
All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!
Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts. Charles M. Shultz
What is it about chocolate that makes people feel so much better? It starts when you are very young and there is nothing like a cup of hot, steaming cocoa when you come in from the cold. It's the preferred drink for breakfast in many countries. The Spaniards and Mexicans have always ascribed life-giving properties to the beans of the cacao plant that make the chocolate we all love. One of my first cooking memories is of my mother stirring fudge at the stove, and then testing it in ice water to see if it had reached the soft ball stage and was ready to beat. We scraped the pot long before it cooled.
My friend, Anne, always talked about her chocolate friend in the years when we were raising our children. It made me laugh but I knew just what she meant. There were memorable days together in the pediatrician's waiting room. I stayed with our twin girls and Anne's five children as Anne went in with one of her girls or boys. The screams from inside were blood-curdling. Afterwards there was the solace of running around outside and snacks with a chocolate treat for moms and kids. When Anne moved to Los Angeles, she wondered if they would understand about her chocolate friend out there. We laughed.
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate.
The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens.
People are passionate about their preferred chocolate. What causes these obsessions? There are generous people who won't share their chocolate bar. I loved it when Kyra Sedgwick's character in The Closer would draw her blinds and pull out her chocolate candy to eat by herself. My only real chocolate passion is a bitter, dark truffle rolled in cocoa powder at the end of a meal. They're not bad in between meals either. My daughters and husband adore milk chocolate. In fact, chocolate cannot come in too many sizes, shapes, or forms for them: bars, drops, coins, kisses, cakes, croissants, and cones. It can be white, milk, mocha, semisweet, and bittersweet. Today chocolate comes laced with chili and dappled with gold. The mystery of chocolate's attraction for people of all ages knows no end.
At Valentine's Day, there are many favorite desserts that we turn to because this is the one day of the year when our normally sinful chocolate indulgence is actually encouraged! First you can hope to receive a box of your favorite chocolates, of course. And then at the end of a special dinner, you can dream of a dense, smooth, luscious Chocolate Mousse.
My cousin Anne Marie finally gave me her favorite Chocolate Mousse recipe which is on our DishandDine site. Ann Marie was a nineteen year old studying in Fribourg , Switzerland. Through the auspices of one of her professors, she was invited to the chalet of a French Count for dinner. The elderly French Count was enchanted with the tall, lovely young American. She was enchanted with the Mousse Au Chocolat that was served for dessert. He said it was a centuries old family recipe that was a treasured secret. But since she was such a delightful young lady, he would allow her to watch his personal chef prepare the dish, and give her the special recipe. However Anne Marie was sworn to secrecy. At the time of my marriage, thirty years ago, Ann Marie decided to give me the recipe as a wedding gift. And when I started DishandDine I convinced my cousin that the time was right to share it with all of us! It is truly heavenly mousse; extremely dense and rich but without any cream! Here is the recipe and the link:
5 tablespoons cold water
1½ tablespoons rum
½ pound dark sweet chocolate (Menier & Maillard)
Separate the yolks and whites; break chocolate in small pieces and place in thick pan with cold water. Stir over low fire until it dissolves. Remove from fire and mix in carefully 5 yolks and rum. Beat egg whites until stiff, add and mix thoroughly. Pour into glasses or cups and cover with wax paper or saran wrap (right on the mousse). Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours before serving