Saturday, February 5, 2011

My not so secret love affair with ...

You may feel that February is the month of roses, soft music, gifts of twinkling jewelry, and all things romantic, but I think of it as the month of chocolate love. There’s nothing wrong with all that other stuff, but chocolate always makes me melt. I particularly adore chocolate at the end of a meal. This affection for chocolate desserts goes back to the days before I could even imagine being able to make such a thing, in fact, before I could pull off anything but the occasional tuna fish sandwich. You see, I came into my marriage with that single ‘culinary’ skill. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, had once cooked for the Queen of England. Ahem. Talk about a challenge. The problem was that I hated cooking.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t alone. I found a cookbook that seemed to have been written for me. The late, great humorist Peg Bracken saved my bacon and possibly my marriage. I fell upon her cheating-in-the-kitchen masterpiece The I Hate to Cook Book, a small but hilarious paperback with fast and easy recipes that could fool some of the people some of the time. I was able to laugh my head off while suffering in the kitchen. Many of the recipes are dated now, but I can still fool some of those same people with variations on the originals. I credit Peg Bracken with letting me fall in love with cooking. The original books have fallen apart over the years, but I still snatch up copies at library and book sales any chance I get.

But back to my story: one of the recipes in The Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book (yes really) is something called pot-de-chocolat, a rich confection of chocolate, cream, and rum. It was pretty snazzy when I served that after a dinner party back in the day. No one knew it had taken about two minutes to make. I sure didn’t tell them.

In a recent New York Times Magazine, Amanda Hesser did a ‘Recipes Redux’ piece on the chocolate rum mousse, giving a recipe The Times had run in 1966 when rum and chocolate desserts were new and French terms boosted a cook’s status. I prefer Peg’s recipe. I have updated the original by using dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. It’s very easy. I imagine even on of my hopeless protagonists could make it. With a bit of luck. Here goes:

Pot-de-chocolat (6- 8 servings)

Into your blender bowl put:

1 cup of dark chocolate chips. (I used Hersey’s Chipits Special Dark, but this is me, so there are no rules)

1 ¼ cups scalded* 18 % cream. (I suppose you could fool around with the percentage of cream, but I haven’t yet)

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons of rum (I experimented with Grand Marnier too, but the rum was better)

* Heat until just below boiling

Turn the blender on at high speed ( I don’t have to tell you to put the lid on) and blend until the racket stops. Pour it into small pretty cups – Japanese tea cups or demi-tasse. It also looks great in small liqueur glasses – all will be pretty on your table or a buffet as well.

Keep the serving dishes small because it’s rich! I even used shooters too just to see how that would turn out. It worked so well we ate those before we got to our party. Oh well.

Don’t forget to chill the desserts for at least three hours. Feel free to fancy them up with a bit of whipped cream or a raspberry or two, but I like them this way. The only decoration I use is a spoon.

May I suggest that if you are all cozied up with someone you love on February 14th, that this will make a nice contribution to the mood. If the someone is a dog or cat, you’ll have to eat the pot-de-chocolat yourself (not good for them!) and hand out dogs treats or fish snacks, whatever. But those will be the subject for another post.

Until then, thank you, Peg Bracken, for laughter, coping skills and some tasty tricks!


  1. Happy Saturday, Mary Jane! Oh, chocolate love! I grok - and I love mousse for its ease, too. I think I'll spend the rest of the day trying to shrink myself down and jump into one of your shooters (also a beautiful idea for serving). Lol on Peg Bracken and laughing your way out of the cooking issues. Would love to know more about your mom-in-law cooking for the Queen of England. Holy Cannoli! What did she make?!

    Have a great Saturday...
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Thanks, Booklady!

    And Cleo, I'll have to find out what she served. I'll report back when I get the story (warning: it changes from time to time) I am writing this from Love is Murder in Chicago where the food is pretty good and there's mystery in the air.

  3. This looks lovely. Yum.
    Have fun at Love is Murder!


  4. Delicious and easy. And I like the change to dark chocolate.

    I got that book a long time ago and still have a soft spot for it. Now I'll have to go back and look through it again.

  5. Clever woman!
    This recipe looks divine!
    Donald's birthday is the day after Valentine's Day and it's fun to combine the two. And it's always fun to find a new recipe to try; usually chocolate (but, of course).

    MJ - I heard you were in Chicago. The town is abuzz with you being there!

    And while I'm here . . . I wanted to let "the cooks" know. I've been here, I've just been having trouble leaving comments (damn "dial-up"). Loving some of these recipes though!

  6. Thanks, Harbingerdc! I am glad I am not the only one with the soft spot for Peg and her books. They still make me laugh and many of the recipes still rock.

    Kaye, your absence has been noticed in the former windy city (now snowy city) We'll be raising many glasses to your and your health. Sure, hope Donald likes the mousse.

  7. I will definitely be trying this ... I love fancy desserts, but sometimes I just don't have the time or energy to pull it off. Easy and hoity-toity and delicious? I'm in.

  8. No time or energy needed here, Wendy. Hope you like it.

  9. Chocolate Mousse is one of my very favorite desserts. I have to try this. My absolute favorite was in a small French restaurant on the third floor of White Flint Mall in Rockville, Maryland. We used to make excuses to go to the mall just for the Chocolate Mousse.

    ~ Krista

  10. I'm loving this recipe...and you're right, it's the perfect Valentine mood-maker! And I looovve dark chocolate. :)

  11. Oh MJ this is wonderful I love chocolate Moose good Valentine's Day desert :).

  12. OMG -- dark chocolate, my (second) weak spot. And, I could probably even manage to make this, too! Fish treats for the cats...another great idea.
    But I think definitely, this Valentine's Day -- a chocolate treat -- yes!

  13. I will be serving this delightful sweet whenever, I am in a pinch and need to be posh.

  14. Elizabeth and Erika - glad you agree about the dark chocolate. Erika - I might make it for you, you are close enough!

    Hi Babs, it is romantic in an easy way (which I love).

    Lil, let me know when you serve it to be posh!

  15. I've had that book ever since I was a young bride and still use some recipes out of it. Peg Bracken was delightful, and I'm so glad she hated to cook because that's why she gave us all those great recipes. I remember the stew fondly.

  16. Ah, Peg Bracken. She was a lifesaver for those of us without a clue how to put a dinner together. I remember that stew too. I just looked it up and here's what she had to say about it: "This is for those days when you're en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of flu." Thanks for the memories, MJ, and the great chocolate dessert idea.

  17. I didn't think anyone but me remembered the I Hate to Cook Book. It was my mom's "bible" in the kitchen. I recall a recipe for a sauce for leftover roast beef--my mom said, "Why wait for leftovers?" and did it from the start.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery