Happy Valentine’s Day! Chocolate is on the menu. Much like any other day, but today I added some heat and some eggs to make a more festive dessert. It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, and the much ballyhooed Nor-easter is barreling up the coast. Before the snow began in earnest, I scooted out for a walk along the water after gathering a few ingredients for the recipe below. My motivation was to move my body before the indoors beckoned, to enjoy the quiet of the oncoming storm and to spot a snowy owl. I have become mildly obsessed with the grand creatures, that unlike their nocturnal brothers and sisters, hang out and hunt during the day — one of the few owl species that are diurnal.
The snowy owls are not native to this area but Southern Maine (and Vermont) have become destinations for the snowy whites as their food supply — lemmings predominantly — in Canada has been shrinking. They have been flying south in search of food. In January, the local paper published a photo of one female perched inside an abandoned building in downtown Portland. It was a sight. She has since been rescued. There have been many sightings at a beach south of Portland (Biddeford Pool) and within city limits, along the Eastern Promenade. Rumor has it that they have been lounging amidst the trees that run alongside the bike path abutting the water. I figured I might spot one in between their bids for suitable rodents. Not one showed up during my walk, but I so wanted to share a photo. When I do, I will post one. Along with a recipe for lemming stew.
Portland (West) friends, Charlie and Katharine, will appreciate the owl references, as they invited me last year to tag along on an owl monitoring project they had volunteered for at Portland’s Tryon Creek State Park. We ventured out into the dark to listen (very carefully) for the whoo-whoo of the barred owl, which we would duly note on our clipboards. Being out in the dark and wholly focused on one particular sound emanating from one particular bird was a complete and blessed departure from the noisy world we inhabit. Even my quiet office rings, buzzes and reminds me constantly that electronics rule or they want to rule. Hence my ventures out to search for the majestic bird amidst the relative quiet of nature.
The storm is now in full gear (and it’s ever so quiet), and we probably won’t be venturing out until tomorrow when we can enjoy the foot or more of snow that piled up. Enjoy the red-tinged holiday. May it be full of love, light and lingerie.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T cocoa nibs
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 325º. Place 4 ramekins or 2 large souffle cups inside a 9 x 13 baking pan.
2. Place cream in a saucepan and bring to a near boil. Immediately remove from heat, and add chocolate and vanilla. Let stand a minute or so, and then vigorously whisk until mixture is smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar and salt.
4. Pour a few tablespoons of cream mixture into yolks to temper the eggs. Whisk well. Then add remaining cream mixture to yolks and again, whisk until smooth. Fold in cocoa nibs.
5. Pour mixture into ramekins and fill baking pan with boiling water until water level reaches about halfway up the ramekins. Place foil over your creations to prevent a skin from forming, and place in oven.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are set. The middle of the pots will be a bit jiggly. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.
- Garnish with whipped cream or creme fraîche, and sprinkle hazelnuts and more nibs atop.