Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

At this time of year, I love to make chocolate truffles flavored with my organic Artemesia liqueurs. So delicious, such a nice gift, (so tasty with a sip of my liqueur!) And truth to tell, although they are time-consuming on a large scale, they really are not hard to make at all. Maybe I shouldn't admit that.....

I have been making truffles flavored with Artemesia Buddha's Hand Citron liqueur, Artemesia Orahovica Walnut Liqueur and Artemesia Kumquat Liqueur to delicious effect for several years. This year, I decided to experiment, and tried flavoring them with my Artemesia Oro Blanco Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon with Rosemary Liqueurs. Wow! Although the recipe doesn't incorporate much liqueur, the flavors really shine through the chocolate. I made three whole batches of truffles in the last week, (about 58 truffles per batch) and I'm already down to a very small handful. That's how popular they are!

Truffles are made by making a ganache (chocolate and heavy cream) and flavoring it in a variety of different ways. There are many, many recipes out there, each with slightly varying proportions of chocolate and cream. Some call for butter, too. This recipe really focuses on the chocolate, so choose a good quality, bittersweet one to be your base. Likewise, use a good quality, unsweetened cocoa powder to roll them in. (I use Trader Joe's Organic 73% super dark chocolate for the ganache, and Trader Joe's Organic Cocoa Powder; very good quality at a very good price.)

Chocolate Truffles

Yields about fify 1/2 ounce truffles

20 ounces 73% organic chocolate, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups heavy organic cream
9 TB full-flavored Artemesia Liqueur
Unsweetened organic cocoa powder for rolling

Put the chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a medium-sized, heavy sauce pan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, and continue to boil for about 1 minute; this will prolong the shelf-life by killing any rogue organisms. Keep a close watch on it - don't let it boil up and over! (Did you just accidentally let it boil up and over, because you got distracted for 30 seconds? No worries, you don't have to toss it, but you will have to beat it into the chocolate with more effort, and stir it occasionally as it cools in the fridge to keep it from separating.)

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let it sit for a few minutes. The heat of the cream will melt the chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate/cream mixture until they are well blended and all the chocolate bits are melted and incorporated.

If you wish to make three different flavors, subdivide this into 3 even portions in 3 smaller ceramic or glass bowls or containers, and use 3TB of each of the flavors of liqueur for the smaller batches. Now add the liqueur(s), stirring vigorously with your spoon to incorporate the liqueur. At this point, the base begins cooling and separating, and it looks like it will never come together. Do not panic! Keep stirring, and I promise that the whole thing will become smooth and emulsified again. Cover, label, and repeat with each flavor. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally if necessary to incorporate the butterfat. Refrigerate the base until the whole is solid, at least an hour.

About an hour before you roll the truffles, take all of them out of the refrigerator to warm up a little. If they are completely chilled, it can be a little hard-going when you scoop. The glass or ceramic bowl keeps each batch at the desired temperature until you can get to it.

Sift about a 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder into a pie dish. Using a 1/2 ounce (1.25" wide) cookie dough scoop, melon-baller, or a teaspoon, scoop the ganache into even-size balls. Roll it a little in the palm of your (very clean) hand or with your (equally clean) fingers to round it off, and drop it into the cocoa powder. Roll it to coat well with the cocoa, and then put it on a plate until you are ready to package them up, or put them all in a covered container in the refrigerator for later. Don't forget to label your containers! You may need to roll the truffles in the cocoa again when you package them later, as they tend to "sweat" a little in storage.

The truffles will last for a few weeks at room temperature, and a few months in the refrigerator.

For a larger batch of four flavors, 1 1/2 times as big, use 30 ounces of chocolate, and 2 1/4 cups of heavy cream. Divide the ganache into four even portions, and to each add 3 TB + 1 tsp of liqueur.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oaxacan Black Mole with Turkey

A couple of years ago, as we prepared to spend Thanksgiving in Massachusetts with my family, I received a very sad e-mail from my sister Cynta. She had just gotten back from her first trip to Oaxaca, a beautiful historic city on the Pacific coast of Southern Mexico, known for highly burnished glazed black clay pots, silver jewelry, and mole. Mole is a style of highly developed sauce, which can be red, black, green or yellow, depending on the ingredients, and is typically served stewed with meats. Every different family has their special mole recipe, and she had gone crazy for it while she was there. She bought countless little packages of it from vendors at the markets, preparing to bring them home to warm her through the cold Massachusetts winter. She meant to put them all into her checked luggage, but..... through a cruel twist of fate, she accidentally left them in her carry-on bags, and.... yes, that's right; they were all confiscated. Now she was back home in the bleak midwinter; it was cold, it was dark, and the usual New England food just was not what she was craving. The desperate plea came; would I bring the ingredients to make Oaxacan Black Mole while we were visiting?

Of course, I could not say no. I researched recipes online and printed one out that sounded good. Then, armed with my recipe I went off to the two Mexican markets that are a few blocks from our house; Mi Tierra and Mi Ranchito, and purchased chiles, Mexican chocolate, and various nuts and seeds, all of which I tucked into my luggage.

At my parents' farm I brined two small, local turkeys overnight, and Joel barbecued them on the Weber on Thursday. While it was pretty good - for turkey - (let's be honest; this is not an exciting meat) there was plenty of meat leftover. The day after Thanksgiving, we packed up most of the leftovers and carted them off to Cynta's house. Then she, our cousin Lisa and I got to work making the mole.

Now, Joel and I have made turkey every way you can, and every type of bird. I think we can make a turkey taste about as good as a turkey can taste. However, that turkey with mole was the highest achievement of the species ever. The mole is so complex and delicious, I'm sure even a leftover butterball would taste mighty fine. But when you add smoked turkey, well; let's just say it brings a whole lot to the party. You know how you always have all those leftovers after Thanksgiving, and you are bored to tears with sandwiches, grey soup, casseroles? You know how you wrap it up and put it in the freezer, and then a year later, you guiltily tip it into the trash can or green bin, because freezing only makes it worse? (One year I even saw a cooked turkey in the free box up the street. Ewww.) Not a problem with mole; I had to ration out the leftovers in tiny little containers. I'm not going to kid you; this is a labor-intensive recipe. However, if you have a friend or two to help, it makes a huge difference. When I made it all by myself this week, it took about 4 hours. But my friends, it was WORTH it!

We liked that first mole so much, the next year we cut straight to the mole application for the turkey. On Tuesday I brined the birds, on Wednesday Joel barbecued them while I made the mole, and on Thursday we heated up the mole with the cut-up bits of turkey. Wow. And there we were on Thanksgiving, free to relax and enjoy our guests.

This year, we decided to do it again. I made just a few little changes to the mole this year; I decided it needed a little more heat, so I raised the recipe from one chipotle chile to two. I also used all of the drippings from the cooking pan in place of as much of the final seven cups of broth as possible. Since the drippings are very salty when you've brined a bird, I didn't add any salt to the dish at all. Guess what? This year's mole blew my little mind.


(Serves 8, with about 10 cups of sauce, which will mean leftovers to make enchiladas or more chicken with)

Very slightly adapted from Rick Bayless

* 12 medium (about 6 ounces) dried mulato chiles
* 8 medium (about 2 1/2 ounces) dried pasilla chiles
* 4 medium (about 1 ounces) dried guajillo chiles
* 2 dried chipotle chiles
* 1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces
* 2 1/4-inch-thick slices of white onion
* 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
* About 2 cups rich-tasting lard or vegetable oil (for frying the chiles)
* 1/2 cup sesame seeds, plus a few extra for garnish
* 1/4 cup pecan halves
* 1/4 cup unskinned or Spanish peanuts
* 1/4 cup unskinned almonds
* About 10 cups chicken broth
* 1 pound (2 medium-large or 6 to 8 plum) green tomatoes, roughly chopped
* 4 ounces (2 to 3 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
* 2 slices stale bread, toasted until very dark
* 1/4 teaspoon cloves, preferably freshly ground
* 1 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
* A scant teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 ripe banana
* 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate
* 2 or 3 avocado leaves (if you have them)
* Salt, about 1 tablespoon depending on the saltiness of the broth
* Sugar, about 1/4 cup (or a little more)
* 2 large (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into quarters OR a large quantity (leftover) turkey


Pull out the stems (and attached seed pods) from the chiles, tear them open and shake or scrape out the seeds, collecting them as you go. Reserve the chilies casing/skin for later.

Now, do something that will seem very odd: scoop the seeds into an ungreased medium-size (8- to 9-inch) skillet along with the torn-up tortilla, set over medium heat, turn on an exhaust fan, open a window and toast your seeds and tortilla, shaking the pan regularly, until thoroughly burned to charcoal black, about 15 minutes. (This is very important to the flavor and color of the mole.) Now, scrape them into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse for 30 seconds or so, then transfer to a blender.

Set an ungreased small iron skillet over medium heat, lay on a piece of aluminum foil, and lay the onion slices and garlic cloves on that. Roast until soft and very dark (about 5 minutes on each side of the onion slices--peel it off the foil to turn it; about 15 minutes for the garlic--turn it frequently as it roasts). Cool the garlic a bit, peel it and combine with the onion in a large bowl.

While the onion and garlic are roasting, turn on the oven to 350 degrees (for toasting nuts), return the skillet to medium heat, measure in about 1/2 cup of the lard or oil (aren't you glad you rendered it already from your good pig? You’ll need about 1/2-inch depth), and, when hot, begin frying the chiles a couple at a time they’ll unfurl quickly, then release their aroma and piquancy (keep that exhaust on and window open) and, after about 30 seconds, have lightened in color and be well toasted (they should be crisp when cool, but not burnt smelling). Drain them well, gather them into a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to insure even soaking. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid.

While the chiles are soaking, toast the seeds and nuts. Spread the sesame seeds onto a baking sheet or ovenproof skillet, spread the pecans, peanuts and almonds onto another baking sheet or skillet, then set both into the oven. In about 12 minutes the sesame seeds will have toasted to a dark brown; the nuts will take slightly longer. Add all of them to the blender (reserving a few sesame seeds for garnish), along with 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth and blend to as smooth a puree as you can. Transfer to a small bowl. Without rinsing the blender, combine the green tomatoes and tomatillos with another 1/2 cup of the broth and puree. Pour into another bowl. Again, without rinsing the blender, combine the roasted onion and garlic with the toasted bread, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, banana and 3/4 cup broth. Blend to a smooth puree and pour into a small bowl.

Finally, without rinsing the blender, scoop in half of the chiles, measure in 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, blend to a smooth puree, then pour into another bowl. Repeat with the remaining chiles and another 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.


From four purees to mole. In a very large (8- to 9-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat 3 tablespoons of the lard you used for the chiles and set over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the tomato puree and stir and scrape (a flat-sided wooden spatula works well here) for 15 to 20 minutes until reduced, thick as tomato paste, and very dark (it’ll be the color of cinnamon stick and may be sticking to the pot in places). Add the nut puree and continue the stirring and scraping until reduced, thick and dark again (this time it’ll be the color of black olive paste), about 8 minutes. Then, as you guessed it, add the banana-spice puree and stir and scrape for another 7 or 8 minutes as the whole thing simmers back down to a thick mass about the same color it was before you added this one.

Add the chile puree, stir well and let reduce over medium-low heat until very thick and almost black, about 30 minutes, stirring regularly (but, thankfully, not constantly). Stir in the remaining 7 cups of broth, (using as much of the drippings from the turkey as possible if you have them) the chocolate and avocado leaves, (cs note: I wrapped the leaves in cheesecloth so I could easily remove them) partially cover and simmer gently for about an hour, for all the flavors to come together. Season with salt and sugar (remembering that this is quite a sweet mole and that sugar helps balance the dark, toasty flavors). Remove the avocado leaves.

In batches in a loosely covered blender, puree the sauce until as smooth as possible, then pass through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl.


Return the mole to the same pot and heat it to a simmer. Nestle the leg-and-thigh quarters of the chicken into the bubbling black liquid, partially cover and time 15 minutes, then nestle in the breast quarters, partially cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

With a slotted spoon, fish out the chicken pieces and transfer them to a large warm platter. Spoon a generous amount of the mole over and around them, sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and set triumphantly before your lucky guests.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: The mole can be completed through Step 2 several days ahead (it gets better, in fact); cover and refrigerate. Complete Step 3 shortly before serving.

VARIATIONS AND IMPROVISATIONS: Bayless' recipe calls for Chilhuacle chiles, which are very difficult to find even if you’re in Oaxaca. I tried, so you can trust me on this. Unless someone has bought a few pounds in Oaxaca and carried them home in their luggage, and sold them to a chile broker, and you happen to time it just right..... This being the case, I have written the substitution ratios in the recipe above. Bayless also recommends serving black mole alongside roast porkloin (a crown roast of pork with black mole would be stunning for New Year’s Eve), or even grilled or roasted beef, venison or lamb, or for enchiladas.

Now, where are you going to get green tomatoes at this time of year? If you make this in the Fall in California, you can save out the last, unripe ones of the season; that's what I did. Or, you can freeze them for later. Or, you can just use all tomatillos, which are available year-round.

Of course you will need corn tortillas to go with this, and we also had a classic red Mexican rice with it. Muy delicisioso. I'll have to do another post with that in it....