Decadent Hot Chocolate

Hubby & I went to our friends’ house Christmas Evening and brought the makings for the decadent hot chocolate recipe I found in the The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  Since the cookbook is 3-ring binder style, I took the hot chocolate page out in preparation to bring it with me, but I apparently set it down as I picked up the grocery bag.  So I knew the ingredients, and I’d glanced at the recipe.  Rather than walking 4 blocks back home to retrieve the recipe, I just went for it.  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoons Hershey’s Dutch-processed/dark chocolate powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • more cream, sugar & vanilla for whipped cream
  • Irish Cream

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, cream, chocolate powder, sugar, & vanilla in a saucepan and heat to boiling on the stove top
  2. After the milk mixture is hot, remove from heat & stir in chocolate chips.  Whisk until melted.
  3. Meanwhile, have one of your friends that you’re hanging out with whip some of the cream for topping.  After the cream forms soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla to taste.
  4. Spoon the hot chocolate into individual mugs and add Irish Cream to your hearts’ content.  Stir and top with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

In the original recipe, the vanilla was added off heat along with the chocolate chips and there was more chocolate powder (2 tablespoons instead of 1).  I’m not sure how much difference it might have made, but I will say that our cocoa was delicious.  It’s definitely a special treat (whole milk and heavy cream = rich cocoa!).  I think I’ll be adding this hot chocolate recipe to my traditional holiday list.  Now I just need to get some Sweet Demitasse Cups and Saucers to serve this in so we don’t all get coronaries!

Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

So far, I make this recipe exactly as I found it at Epicurious, but I’ll update here if I come up with any significant changes.  For me, it just tastes exactly like Broccoli Cheddar soup should, but made with decent ingredients I have in my home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head broccoli (½ pound)
  • 1 large boiling potato (½ pound)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1½ cups)

Preparation:

  1. Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.
  2. Peel potato and cut into ½-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a food processor or blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

The Verdict:

Delightful.  Hubby said that it was good broccoli cheddar soup, we didn’t have a lump of cheese in the bottom of the pot (like we found in some recipes I could mention), and it was everything I like in a winter soup: filling, thick, and full of fattening things like butter and cheese and cream!  For the dairy, I used an Australian cheese that I found at the local discount grocery store (where I was looking for inexpensive, interesting Christmas presents).  It was a lovely meal, and I’m adding it to our list of recipes to repeat.  Shockingly, I didn’t change a thing from the recipe as written.  I may try to add a bit of spice next time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this way.

Winter Squash Mash

I found the original Winter Squash Mash Recipe at Epicurious, and made a few tweaks as I was cooking.  I love winter squash, and I’m always happy to have another preparation for it!

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One  2¾- to 3-pound kabocha squash, halved crosswise, seeded
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil inside each kabocha squash half and brush to coat. Place squash halves, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash flesh into bowl and mash until almost smooth.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir 5 minutes or until the garlic begins to caramelize. Smoosh the garlic cloves with your spatula and break it up into relatively small pieces.  Add butter mixture to squash and mash until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Add more broth if desired and rewarm in microwave before continuing.)

The Verdict:

This meal was actually scheduled for Friday night.  I arrived home Friday to find a take-and-bake pizza sitting on the counter, and roasted squash sitting on the stove top.  Hubby had followed the directions faithfully until it was time to take the squash out of the oven.  Then he thought that he’d messed something up, because the squash was collapsed on the cookie sheet.  He’d only seen the photos of ½ squashes still firmly keeping their shapes, so he was sure it was ruined.  Since the pizza was ready to go, we went ahead and ate that for dinner on Friday.  But the squash was fine, so we scraped it into a storage container to wait for another day, which ended up being Sunday.

After the trauma on Saturday, I wasn’t up to cleaning the kitchen this weekend.  What with the busy schedule we had this week, everything was pretty much dirty, which is why I didn’t mince or press the garlic cloves.  Yes, I am admitting on the internets that my kitchen was dirty enough that I didn’t have any clean utensils capable of mincing garlic. And I still cooked in it.  That’s how I am (sometimes).  So I figured the mincing was really just to get the garlic into edible pieces, and cooking it to the smashing point and spreading it out would probably work fine.

I really liked the taste of the kabocha even before the butter and garlic were added – it is probably my favorite of all the winter squashes we’ve tried.  The CSA folks are planning a bulk sale, and here’s hoping there’s a kabocha option!  At any rate, I enjoyed my modified version of this recipe, and I can see how it might need the broth if you started with a less-moist squash, but I would recommend adding it slowly, bit by bit, and testing for texture along the way.  You wouldn’t want to end up with a winter squash puddle instead of a winter squash mash, after all!