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A Valentine’s Vegan Falls Off the Wagon

Sun Feb 17, 2008

Chocolate Suave

Valrhona Suave au chocolat et aux pommes

I have long counted myself among the Valentine’s Day-haters, a scowling anti-cupid. And my hate was the self-righteous kind, the disdain of the enlightened, of someone who didn’t buy into a holiday concocted to sell more greeting cards and chocolate—something like a Valentine’s vegan. But then I fell deeply in love. And suddenly, like someone who had deprived themselves of bacon and butter too long, I fell off the deep end.

Square One
Casting aside my fear of doilies, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and fluffy animals bearing pithy “conversation” hearts, I got quickly got down to the business of deciding what kind of Valentine’s Day I would like. After nearly 15 years in the restaurant business, pitching prix fixe menus, I knew I wanted to cook a meal at home. While scanning my cookbooks for the perfect menu, one that wouldn’t leave me in the kitchen all night, I began running through gift ideas. Neal, like my mother, is not easy to shop for. So after much contemplation, I had finally decided on buying him an autographed Manny Ramirez rookie baseball card. While it didn’t have the romantic sentiment that I had initially hoped for, Manny is his favorite player on the Red Sox. And we did fall in love over homemade dinners and Red Sox games on TV. But when a friend emailed me to say that autographed baseball cards weren’t as valuable as unsigned ones, and I noted the lack of memorabilia in our apartment (contrary to what you might be imagining, I do not live inside a scene from Fever Pitch), I decided to shelve the idea until I could get more information.

Back to Square One
My dad suggested doing something simple. He’s bought my mother a Nestle’s Chunky and a single red rose for almost all of the soon-to-be 35 years they’ve been married. But the candy and flowers thing, no matter how unconventional, isn’t really my bag. So night after night I stared blankly at our butter cream yellow walls, trying to imagine a perfect, creative gift, perhaps something that I could do instead of buy. Then, like a fresh coat of paint brightens the dullest room, it dawned on me: our walls! I would paint our bedroom (or at least promise to). Neal’s hated the color since the painters’ first stroke. It was simple and thoughtful and just unusual enough to work. So I got started on my I.O.U.

The Menu
My Valentine’s menu didn’t really take shape until the morning of, while I was cutting out pink, red and white paper hearts to scatter across our entryway. It had to have shrimp and chocolate, but also had to be easy enough to make so that we weren’t eating at mid-night. It was a workday after all. I remembered marking a recipe for Quick and Easy Cioppino in the October issue of Gourmet; that would work if I added shrimp and, perhaps, some fresh King or Snow crab to the pot. A little crusty sourdough from La Brea Bakery and a bottle of southern Italian wine and the dinner plan was set. Dessert would have to be something chocolate, since Neal loves it. I thought about a soufflé or a pot de crème, but decided on a recipe straight from the Valrhona chocolate website:

Suave au chocolat et aux pommes
3 tart apples, peeled and chopped coarsely
2/3 cup hazelnuts (with the skin), chopped
9 oz Caraïbe couverture, 66% cocoa, chopped
2/3 cup whipping cream
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp, slightly rounded, cornstarch
3 egg whites
3 tbsp honey
Softened butter for the cake pan
Powdered sugar
Powdered cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11-inch springform cake pan. Prep the apples and hazelnuts; set aside. Bring whipping cream to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate. Whisk in the egg yolks and cornstarch, being careful to avoid lumps. Add honey to the egg whites and whip to soft peals. Incorporate a small amount of the whipped whites into the still lukewarm chocolate and cream mixture using a whisk, to temper it. Then, with a spatula, gently incorporate the rest of the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the cake pan then sprinkle the chopped nuts and apples over the top. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon before baking. Set on middle oven rack and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.Cool on a rack and unmold only after it has cooled to lukewarm.

I’d never made a Suave before, but I’m glad I did. It was rich and dense, with the tang of the apples and roasted hazelnut flavors really complementing the bittersweet chocolate. I actually used 71% cacao Valrhona chocolate, because that’s what I had already bought, and I only used seven ounces (two bars), which was plenty! I also didn’t have a springform pan and substituted two 9-inch cake pans. I’m sure this affected the texture of the cake a bit, but it didn’t keep it from being utterly decadent and delicious. I made a small amount of fresh, slightly sweetened whipped cream to counter the richness. I might add a little cayenne if I make this again, though, the dessert definitely calls out for a spicy foil.

Overall, I’d say, our first Valentine’s was a success. And any chance of the gag-me-cheesiness was immediately lost when I slammed the door in Neal’s face when he arrived home for work 15 minutes earlier than I’d expected. I was just switching NPR for Tom Petty on the stereo and still had to scatter the hearts and light some candles. We laughed hysterically when I finally let him in, cold and a little pissed off for having been left out on the doorstep alone for so long.

Scattered Hearts

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2 Responses to “A Valentine’s Vegan Falls Off the Wagon”

 
  1. Foodwoolf Says:

    aaaah romance! and OOOOOOh, how I love a great Suave!
    Happy Valentines day!
    Brooke

  2. cicilia Says:

    awww…sweet love!
    love your pics here!
    awesome! 🙂

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