Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse

Life’s uncertain, post dessert first!

A lot of people won’t try to tackle chocolate mousse because it seems too difficult. Not you, of course, you’ve been champing at the bit to whip up a batch for dessert, and so we’ll provide the easiest recipe we know. It comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table.

Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a mean mousse, so you should definitely keep it in mind when you want a nice light dessert, but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Abbreviated Instructions

Add a pinch of salt and whip the egg whites. When they are starting to stiffen and form peaks, add the sugar, and whip until you have stiff but glossy peaks. Set aside.

In a microwave, heat chocolate in 1 minute intervals at 50% power until the chocolate melts. Stir briskly.

One by one, add the egg yolks and whisk them into the melted chocolate.

Fold in egg whites. Start by folding in 1/4 of the egg whites, then fold in the rest.

Scoop into fancy serving dishes and refrigerate until serving.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/chocolate-mousse/

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Ingredient discussion:

Eggs: free range. Chocolate: best you can buy; we use Valrhona 71%  cacao. There are basically two ingredients here, they’ll have to stand out.

Procedure:

separating eggs
Separating eggs when the are cold is a bit easier, then let them come to room temperature.

Separate eggs. Do this while the eggs are cold, it’s easier, then let them warm to room temperature. We separate each egg into a small bowl, then pour the whites into our mixing bowl; that way, if one yolk breaks, we don’t get yolks in the entire batch of whites — they wouldn’t whip. We really suggest following this technique (we had a scrambled egg the next morning).

Whipping egg whites
Add the sugar when the egg whites are beginning to whip up.

Whip egg whites. Add a pinch of salt and whip the egg whites. When they are starting to stiffen and form peaks, add the sugar, and whip until you have stiff but glossy peaks. Set aside.

Valrhona chocolate
Use the best chocolate you can find. It makes all the difference.

Melt chocolate. In a microwave, heat chocolate in 1 minute intervals at 50% power until the chocolate melts. Stir briskly.

egg yolk in chocolate
One by one, whisk in each egg yolk. The chocolate will thicken noticeably.

Add egg yolks. One by one, add the egg yolks and whisk them into the melted chocolate. The chocolate will start to thicken up and stiffen a bit.

folding in egg whites
Here, we’re folding in the remaining egg white. Be gentle.

Fold in egg whites. Here’s the tricky part. Since the chocolate is thick, take 1/4 of the egg whites and try to fold the into the chocolate to lighten it. You might just have to whisk the egg whites in. We did. Now carefully fold in the remaining egg whites using a wide rubber spatula. Scoop up the chocolate and cover the whites, push down through the whites, and repeat. Be gentle, you do not want the egg whites to deflate. Fold until you’ve incorporated most of the egg whites. It’s okay if a few flecks of egg white remain visible.

chocolate mousse
Nice looking chocolate mousse. About 15 minutes, start to finish!

Serve. Scoop into fancy serving dishes and refrigerate until serving. We used martini glasses as our fancy dishes. Looks nice, huh? Tastes better! High Five!

Worth the trouble?

Scratched Sour Cream

sour cream

If you are like us, you probably have some heavy cream left over from the various treats that you made for the holiday season. Now, what to do with it, what to do with it? Hmm. What’s made from cream? Of course, sour cream! Don’t just let the cream sour, that probably won’t work, but the following instructions will.

Sour cream, like yogurt, cheese, and most buttermilks, is a cultured milk product. So we just need the right culture. And if you’ve been scratchin’ up your buttermilk like we have, you have that culture. So let’s get started.

Scratched Sour Cream

Scratched Sour Cream

Ingredients

Abbreviated Instructions

Measure buttermilk into a clean glass container.

Add cream and stir.

Let stand overnight, then refrigerate.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/scratched-sour-cream/

Ingredients:

Ingredient discussion:

If you’re not scratchin’ your buttermilk you could use store-bought buttermilk.

Procedure:

measuring buttermilk
Use one or two tablespoons of buttermilk that contains live cultures.

Measure buttermilk into a clean glass container.

pouring out cream
We didn’t measure the cream, but we know these containers hold 1.5 cups, so we just poured.

Add cream.

 

stirring cream and culture together
Thoroughly mix the buttermilk and cream, you want to make sure that the cultures are well distributed.

Stir.

 

covered container
Cover and let sit for 12 to 24 hours. Longer times make thicker sour cream.

Let stand overnight. Yep, leave it out on the counter so those cultures can work their magic and turn your cream into thick, rich sour cream. Then refrigerate.

Yep, so easy anyone could do it. We know, we know, it seems scary to leave a milk product to sit out at room temperature overnight. But what happens when you add the buttermilk as a culture, is that the live culture grows so rapidly in the presence of food, the other microorganisms get crowded out, leaving just sour cream.

Once we learned that making sour cream is a no-brainer, we stopped buying sour cream.

Worth the trouble?

Bear Paws

Okay, even though we posted this the next day, it is probably easiest to make the caramel the same day. Sorry, but with the Internet on computers these days, you kind of get what you pay for.

This is such a great holiday treat, and we often make them during the holidays to give away. While we could get a something crappy at Dul-Mart, we find that making these takes about the same time, and most people just love ’em. Besides they pay homage to bears, the coolest animals on the planet, so you got to make them at least once in your life, right?

We use a modified version of the recipe provided in The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney.

Makes 24 bear paws

Bear Paws

Bear Paws

Ingredients

  • 48 pecan halves ( about 1/4 lb)
  • 8 ounces cashews
  • Cream caramel, freshly made
  • 6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate

Abbreviated Instructions

On two parchment lined baking sheets, place five cashews and two pecans to make “paws.” Make 24.

After making the cream caramel, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then spoon a glob over each “paw.”

Refrigerate. Let the “paws” cool for an hour or two.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and microwave at 50% power for a minute, stir. Repeat the microwaving and stirring until the chocolate melts.

With a rubber spatula, scoop up a glob of chocolate and thickly smear it in the “paws.”

Refrigerate. Let the paws cool until the chocolate hardens, about an hour.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/bear-paws/

Ingredients:

  • 48 pecan halves ( about 1/4 lb)
  • 8 ounces cashews
  • Cream caramel, freshly made
  • 6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate

Ingredient discussion:

Buy the best chocolate you can find. These are treats. Not something you just stuff down your gullet. Live a little! Sure, it’ll cost more, but it’ll be so worth it. Nuts: use unsalted, or roasted and lightly salted. The contrast between the salty and sweet is sooo good.

Procedure:

pecan and cashew paws
Arrange the nuts to resemble paws. We like to use cashews since they look like claws.

Arrange the nuts. On two parchment lined baking sheets, place five cashews and two pecans to make “paws.”  Do this over and over until you have 24 “paws.”

pouring caramel on nuts
Put a big glob of caramel on the nuts so they’ll stick together.

Cover each paw with caramel. After making the cream caramel, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then spoon a glob over each “paw.”

Don’t bother scraping the pan out for the bear paws. That’s for you to eat; after all, you’re the chef here. Think of it as quality control.

Refrigerate. Let the “paws” cool for an hour or two.

Melt chocolate. Break the chocolate into small pieces and microwave at 50% power for a minute, stir. Repeat the microwaving and stirring until the chocolate melts. Don’t go over a minute, and don’t go past 50% power. You do not want to burn the chocolate. Patience.

covering paws with chocolate
Cover those paws with the best chocolate you can find.

Cover “paws” with chocolate. With a rubber spatula, scoop up a glob of chocolate and thickly smear it in the “paws.” When you’ve covered all 24, feel free to do something with any chocolate left over. We won’t tell.

Refrigerate. Let the paws cool until the chocolate hardens, about an hour.

Test one out. Then package the rest to give away. You must share treats this good. It involves chocolate, so, well, you can guess how many stars.

Worth the trouble?

Cream Caramels

In this and the next post, we’re going to make a great little treat that would be appropriate for those who have been nice: bear paws. But, making bear paws requires two steps and the first step is to make some scratched caramel.

“Oooo!”I hear you saying, “making candy is hard. You need all kinds of specialized equipment, it’s just so not worth it to make it at home. Besides, it takes forever, right?” Continue reading “Cream Caramels”

Worth the trouble?

Pizza Night

This Sunday we are going with the one meal that maximizes the tastiness-to-easiness ratio. Yep, pizza. Since we baked bread on Wednesday, we just saved about a pound of bread dough for Sunday. Yep, it’ll keep that long in the fridge. All we’ll do is make some sauce, grate some cheese (we won’t make it this time, but some time we’ll show you how), and slice up toppings. Sunday’s Le Menu:

Originally, we weren’t sure what we’d want for dessert. Pizza is pretty filling, so that meant something light, and what could be a lighter dessert than chocolate mousse? The particular recipe that we use is easy as pie, so you won’t need to fear scratching up this one.

Q: Any issues? A: Nope. The dough was already made from earlier in the week, so we just took that out of the fridge in the morning. We made up the mousse around 3:00pm so it would have time to chill, then quickly did the sauce. Then it was wash and chop the lettuce for salad (it’ll keep in the fridge for several hours). Around 4:30 we stretched the dough and prepped the toppings; immediately after we made up the vinaigrette.  A little after 5, started preheating the oven and baking stone. Around 5:40 we topped the pizza, slide it in the oven and sat done to eat our salads. Around 6, the pizza came out and we had our main. Dessert waited until around 7:30.

 

Q: Anything different next time. A: Probably try a different sauce recipe. We have yet to find the best.

Slow-Cooked Greens

During the winter months, we get quite a lot of greens: turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, you name it, if it’s green we’ll get it. And, for a long time, basically, we just sautéed or steamed them as a side, which used up the greens but didn’t really make them stand out. Sure, they were nutritious, but not necessarily delicious. Okay, yes, but delicious, no. In particular, collard greens seemed to stand out as one that was just (barely) okay. In fact, we kind of dreaded getting a bunch of collards in our weekly share. As it turns out, we just didn’t know how to cook them.

We were always taught that you should cook vegetables for only a few minutes to preserve the vitamins. Ideally, you should have just a bit of crunch when the vegetables are done; they shouldn’t be soggy. As with carrots: no one likes carrots boiled until they are mushy; they like the to have just that little crunch in the middle. And, so, that’s how we cooked collards, too. Maybe we steamed them for 5 minutes, or sautéed them. Sure, they might have retained the vitamins, but they were tough. And not very tasty. They were never going to be anywhere near the top of the hit parade.

Well, it turns out that the old way of cooking collards is the best way (at least the best way we’ve found). Basically, you want to cook them a long time and you want them to simmer to bring out the natural sweetness. If your family is from down south, your grandmother probably made collards this way. She knew what she was doing, and would probably be amazed that anyone wouldn’t just know this. Or that they’d need a recipe. Since we didn’t know, we figured that you might not either, so,if you didn’t learn this from you grandmother, you can learn it here. Our recipe is based on one from At the Kitchen Table, The Craft of Cooking at Home by Greg Atkinson.

Slow-Cooked Greens

Slow-Cooked Greens

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch greens (about 1 pound)
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 onion sliced thin and cut into quarter moons
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 drops liquid smoke (optional)

Abbreviated Instructions

Wash and remove the tough stalks from the greens. Slice the greens into ribbons about 1 x 2 inches.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Toss in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to brown.

Add the greens. And add the pepper, salt, water, and, if using, the liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low so the greens can simmer.

Cover and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add a bit more water if needed to keep the greens from sticking to the pan.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/slow-cooked-greens/

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch greens (about 1 pound)
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 onion sliced thin and cut into quarter moons
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 drops liquid smoke (optional)

Ingredient discussion:

This recipe is great for many kinds of greens, but is especially good for those tougher or stronger-tasting greens such as collards, mustard, or turnip greens. We would not recommend it for beet greens, chard, or spinach. Those are too tender and tasty on their own.

Procedure:

Clean the greens. Wash and remove the tough stalks from the greens. If the stalks seem a bit tender, you can leave them on, but definitely remove the ones that are tough and woody.

Slice into pieces. Slice the greens into ribbons about 1 x 2 inches.

quarter moon onions
Here’s what we mean by quarter moons. Slice the onion thinly, then cut into quarters. No other reason, except that they look nice in dishes.

Cook onions. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Toss in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to brown.

cooking greens
Just stuff the greens into the pot. They cook down so much you can fit a whole lot in a single pan.

Add the greens. And add the pepper, salt, water, and, if using, the liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low so the greens can simmer.

cooking greens
See, we told you they’d cook down. Simmering a long time really brings out the flavor. Those old-time southern cooks really knew what they were doing.

Cook. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add a bit more water if needed to keep the greens from sticking to the pan.

Serve. Slow-cooked greens make a great traditional side to just about any good southern dish, but can easily go with some of those Yankee dishes, too.

This is pretty much the only way we do collards these days, but, since we have greens other ways too, we’ll give it four stars.

Worth the trouble?

CSA Produce

CSA Produce
Mid-December Produce on display.

Our produce for the week consists of:

  • Purple-top turnips (about 6)
  • Pecans (about 8 ounces in the shell)
  • Salad mix (1 bag)
  • Chioggia beets (2 bunches, since we traded tomatillos for extras)
  • Naval oranges (2)
  • Summer squash (2)
  • Escarole
  • Eggs (1 dozen, which we purchased as an extra)

We couldn’t pass by those extra beets. And we know exactly what we’ll do with them: Balsamic-Orange Beets. Our favorite way to have beets. Plus the greens are so tasty, too.

Watch this space to see what we do with all this over the next week.

December 15 update: We used some turnips and a summer squash in a roasted vegetable casserole, and we steamed the beet greens for a side over two days. Salad mix and the escarole (and a turnip or two) made (and will make) a nice side salad.

December 18 update: The salad mix, escarole, and remaining turnips will be used in today’s lunch. We’ll make the beets tonight, substituting pecans for the walnuts. We still haven’t used the squash or eaten the oranges, but they’ll keep for a few more days.