chopped chocolate photo by Santos.
Deep down, J and I are antisocial homebodies (not that deep if you ask our families, I'm sure). Example: our first New Year's eve together, I had just returned from a semester abroad in Zimbabwe, and he had made reservations at a fancy-schmancy joint in Iowa City. I sheepishly asked my not-quite-yet boyfriend to cancel the plans and could we make dinner together at his apartment instead? Little did I know, J was happy as a clam to stay inside, and we enjoyed a lovely eggplant parmesan.
It's since become something of a tradition for us to ring in the New Year with a home cooked feast for two, a quality champagne, and a movie rental. Last night was no exception and we puttered most of the evening away in the kitchen--roasting herb-encrusted lamb, concocting a cannelini bean gratin, savoring a delicate salad of roast beets, clementines, mint and a hint of orange-flower water.
The star of the low-key show was dessert: chocolate mint pot de creme--a fancy way to say deep, dark, dense chocolate pudding. Not wanting to make another run to the store, we settled for pots du "half and half", which worked just fine--I can't imagine it could get that much creamier without giving you a heart attack.
Chocolate Mint Pot de Creme for Two
adapted from "The Herbal Kitchen" by Jerry Traunfeld
1 cup and 2 tbsp. half and half
handful peppermint leaves
3 1/2 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used E. Guittard)
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place two 1 cup oven-safe ramekins in a large lidded baking or roasting pan (I used a roasting pan).
Bring the half and half to a full boil in a small saucepan. Remove pan from heat and gently stir in the peppermint leaves. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
Put the chocolate in a medium saucepan and melt slowly over low heat (if you're worried about burning the chocolate, use the metal-pan-over-simmering-water method). When chocolate is melted, remove saucepan from heat. Gently whisk in the egg yolks and sugar.
Slowly strain the half and half into the chocolate mixture, adding about 1/4 c. at a time, whisking gently until incorporated before adding more. You should have a smooth, fairly liquid custard when all of the half and half is added.
Carefully ladle your chocolate custard ino the ramekins, leaving about 1/2-1 inch headspace (you may have a little left over). Put the dish holding the custards into the oven, pour about 1 inch hot water into it, and cover. Bake until the custards are just set, 20-25 minutes.
According to Jerry Traunfeld, author of The Herbal Kitchen, "They [the custards] should jiggle like very loose Jell-O when you move them, but they will not be liquid in the center."
Once out of the oven, let the custards cool, uncovered, in the water bath for 10 minutes. Then remove them from the bath and refrigerate until cold. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if ya like.