I'm not big on tradition. Especially when it comes to food. There are so many things I've never made before, why stick myself in a rut by making the same old thing for theholidays every year? This year, I offered to make the Christmas Eve feast for my husbands family because my mother in-law recently underwent surgery and wasn't feeling up to it.
I chose Italian (hmm, maybe I'm already in a rut with the Italian thing!) and spent a lot of time contemplating menu choices. The main course wasn't hard. Both Sam and I read Heat by Bill Buford and became intrigued by his description of a beef stew called Peposo Notturno. Just throw some beef in a pot with a bottle of Chianti, a head of garlic, salt and 4 Tbsp. of coarsely ground black pepper and bake it overnight at 200 degrees. In the AM we seperated the meat from the sauce and cooked the sauce down to thicken it up and concentrate the flavors. After another hour in the oven to reheat the stew, the meat is rich and spicy but not overwhelmingly peppery. It is unlike any other beef stew I have ever had and so easy! For photos of the entire meal, check out my flickr page.
What I really want to talk about is dessert. I thought about making many things but in the end, I went with tradition. Many years ago my Dad discovered the ultimate flourless chocolate cake. I know, we've all been beaten over the head with hundreds of flourless molten lava decadence cakes by now but this was BEFORE all of that. The recipe comes from Julia Child and the original name has way too many words. We just call it Gateau. We usually serve it with a basic raspberry sauce and a pillow of whipped cream but I knew when I wrote the post about syllabub not too long ago that this might well be the ideal accompaniment to my favorite chocolate cake. I was right.
I will share the recipe here for selfish reasons. We were packing up the seemingly endless boxes of food to bring to the festivities when I realized that my notebook with the gateau recipe was at the new kitchen and there was no time to go pick it up. What did I do? I called my parents, of course. It's actually become something of a joke in my family that I can NEVER find the recipes for our few family favorites when I need them. This cake is so good, that even though my parents are retired and traveling around in an RV, they still had the recipe with them. From now on, as long as I am near a computer, the recipe will be at my fingertips. Try it this New Year's Eve and maybe it will become a Holiday tradition for you too.
Gateau- based on a recipe from Julia Child
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
4 Tbsp. water ( I usually just use espresso)
4 Tbsp. rum (or try Grand Marnier, Frangelico, Kahlua, etc.)
14 semi sweet chocolate
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (or use 1 lb. bittersweet)
6 eggs (warmed in a bowl of hot water)
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the espresso and rum. Be sure to add the liquids before you start melting the chocolate so that the chocolate does not seize. If you have only one Kitchenaid bowl, whip the cream first and store it in the fridge while the chocolate melts. Clean the bowl and add the warmed eggs and begin beating on low. Slowly add the sugar and vanilla then whip on high until eggs have tripled in volume. This could take 8-10 minutes and is the secret to this recipe so don't give up too soon!
When the chocolate is melted and the eggs are whipped, fold 1/4 of the egg mixture in the chocolate to lighten it. This makes it easier to combine it with the rest of the eggs. Fold the lightened chocolate back into the rest of the eggs and fold gently until homogenized. Now fold in the whipped cream. Pour into a lightly greased 9 inch square pan and bake in a water bath at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until the center is slightly springy to the touch. You can underbake this cake if a molten center is what you are looking for . I don't recommend it though because this cake firms up overnight and is almost a new and different cake the next day. If there's any left, I can never resist having a few bites with my morning coffee.
One more thing, this cake is not for slicing. Just scoop it out and garnish attractively. Beauty isn't everything, you know.