Friday, February 13, 2009

a chocolate-y nightcap (with cookies)

I thought about writing about a Valentine's Day dinner you could make at home for the person you're-just-that-into. But truthfully, Dan and I are going out for dinner on Saturday. (I know, I know--eating out on Valentine's Day generally sucks. But it's just a little place in our neighborhood that we love and want to support.) And really, I think if you're cooking a meal for someone you like, you probably have a better idea of what they want to eat than I do. At least I'd hope so.

That said, I have a dessert idea that you really should try. It's the perfect excuse to skip dessert in a restaurant and go back to your place (if your date somehow needs convincing), or a nice way to end a meal if you're cooking at home. And it's not a fussy souffle or layer cake, or something you even need to turn the oven on for. It's the very best hot chocolate ever. And you can add booze to it. Sold?

Belgian hot chocolate

This recipe is adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate via the great David Lebovitz. He suggests replacing part of the milk with strong coffee, if you'd like to add something extra without using liquor. If you are spiking this, I recommend bourbon (I used Jack Daniel's) and David Lebovitz suggests cognac or Chartreuse.
(Serves about 6)

1 quart half-and-half or whole milk
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
tiny pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 shot bourbon whisky, per serving

Warm about one-third of the half-and-half or milk, with the chopped chocolates and salt, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half or milk, heating until the mixture is warmed through. Add the cinnamon. Use a whisk and mix the hot chocolate until it's completely smooth. Pour into mugs. Add a shot of bourbon to each mug and stir. Serve very warm with whipped cream, marshmallows, or plain. Leftover mix can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, and re-warmed in a saucepan or microwave oven. You can also make this ahead of time, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it in a pan on the stove.

If your loved one is extra extra special, you might want to serve some cookies too. Perhaps the ambrosia macaroons I served at a recent dinner party with the hot chocolate? Just a suggestion.

Ambrosia macaroons
These cookies, originally from Bon Appetit, got their name because they are inspired by ambrosia, a Southern concoction of mandarin oranges, coconut, and marshmallow fluff. My great-grandmother used to make a version (we called it "Grandma salad") with canned fruit cocktail and colored mini marshmallows. As you'd imagine, it was sweet, sweet, sweeeeet. Like many childhood food passions, I couldn't get enough of it then but feel a little sick thinking about it now. While it may not appeal to me as an adult, ambrosia flavors translate really well into cookies. This is essentially a classic coconut macaroon livened up with orange zest and drizzled with dark chocolate. Highly delicious and very easy to make.
(Makes about 3 dozen)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. finely grated orange peel
3 large eggs
24 oz. sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed)
6 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.

Using fork, drizzle chocolate over macaroons. Chill on sheets until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.


Anonymous said...
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Daniel said...

I'm culturally confused:

Macaroons are very Jewish. But ambrosia salad is very, um, not-Jewish.

It's a delicious mixed marriage. Like our marriage, come to think of it!

Lisa said...

Ha! That's very true!

Cold Cuts said...

I love Ambrosia salad. You are the only other person I know who grew up with it - yes, we also just did fruit cocktail and mini marshmallows. I gotta make these cookies.

Lisa said...

Do you remember picking out all of the cherries in your Ambrosia? That was totally the best part.

Cold Cuts said...

No, I mostly just remember that it was one of the 4 things I would eat during childhoood holiday dinners: ambrosia (which we just called "fruit salad"), mashed potatoes (with no gravy), white meat turkey only, and rolls. Yes, it was all very beige and starchy.


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