Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Belated Valentines

This year I gave a cooking class on Valentine's Day, so I'm a day late in preparing my chocolate dessert for my Valentine. Better late than never, and this year it was a Chocolate Mousse with a touch of tequila. The recipe calls for egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, tequila, espresso, butter, and whipped cream and berries as a garnish. It's an adaptation from The Cooking of Provincial France, Foods of the World, Time/Life Books.

I found a post from several years ago of Paco Cardenas, from a class I took from him years ago when I first came to San Miguel de Allende.  Paco is a well known pastry chef here and owner of Petit Four in San Miguel and I think I have the 'confianza', not to mention pride, to call him a friend. I'll repost it here. Paco makes his chocolate mousse differently, but just as decadent. Anyway, this post is from several years back. The years have passed and my connection with this town have grown in ways I hardly expected.

For the Love of San Miguel de Allende

It would be easy to be selfish and keep the secret of San Miguel de Allende to myself.  But what the heck, Martha Stewart "discovered" it several months ago.  Granted, American GIs started going in droves to this colonial town in central Mexico in the late 40's when Stirling Dickinson, the larger-than-life American expatriate impacted the life of this town forever after.  In 1948, Life Magazine published a three-page spread entitled “GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time.” This was Stirling Dickinson's legacy.

In the intervening years, this sleepy town—and the cradle of Mexican independence—grew and became flooded with expats from all over the world, especially Americans.  It also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unfortunately, in 2009, stories of the spread of swine flu discouraged tourism.  This was compounded by the astounding stories of how large swaths of Mexico have been taken over by drug cartels, reversing the prosperity the town had enjoyed since those heady days of Stirling Dickinson. The irony is that San Miguel is safer than most American towns and life on the main square is lived almost as it was a hundred years ago.

I am a teacher and several years ago,  with the collaboration of colleagues in my school, we created a program for our middle school students in San Miguel. This is how I ended up in a cooking class with Paco Cárdenas Báez, a pastry chef who owns Petit Four.  Paco's class is foodie heaven.  He takes his students to the market to meet the "real" people of San Miguel: women who sell nopales, blue handmade tortillas, huitlacoche, and roasted corn.

He invites his pupils into his home to cook in a kitchen that is al fresco, the chef and his eager protégés bathed in the golden light of San Miguel.
The Aztecs knew what chocolate was about. So does Paco.   Here is his decadent chocolate mousse with tequila for you to enjoy this Dia del Amor, Valentine's Day.
Chocolate Mousse a la Mexicana Recipe by Chef Paco Cárdenas from El Petit Four M.R.

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup tequila reposado (aged)
1 cup fresh mixed berries
Optional: ½ cup bittersweet chocolate for decorative flakes; pour on a granite top and scrape with spatula

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the cream to soft peaks.
Pour the tequila on top of the cream and mix well.
Melt the chopped chocolate and pour it on top of the tequila cream.
Whisk together until smooth.

To serve:
Place the mousse in a pastry bag with a striped nozzle and pipe the mousse  (or spoon it) in martini glasses, garnish with fresh mixed berries and dark chocolate flakes.