Yesterday I called my Aunt Rosie in Erie, PA. She is in her 80s and is one of the most fun people to talk to I know. I called to see how she was faring in all the snow. “I just said to Jim, I can't believe Erie made The Weather Channel!” she told me, “we haven't been out of the house in three days.”
She and Jim, her second husband, live outside the city on the edge of a woods and they love to walk in the woods but they won't be doing that any time soon. “The post office told us if we want our mail we have to clear the snow away from our mailbox,” she said. “I told them we'll do that as soon as we figure out where it is.” I told her I hoped she'd just stay in and be warm and she said she was going to make some hot chocolate while Jim built a fire. Those two know how to live. But it got me thinking about how the coming of snow just seems to beg for hot chocolate. The perfect pair – next to Aunt Rosie and Jim.
In the past I haven't been a big fan of hot chocolate but that was before I was introduced to the wonders of Mexican Hot Chocolate. This is hot chocolate in its purest, most unadulterated form and it is delicious. There are lots of ways to make it. The purest way is to shave the chocolate into a mug, add hot water and stir to dissolve, whip it into a froth and drink. But you can also make it with milk. My personal favorite is to add it to coffee. But no matter how you prepare it, you have to start with the real thing, Pure Cacao which you can buy in disks and then grate before using. It's not as easy as ripping open an envelope of Swiss Miss but it is worth it.
In the movie Chocolat, Johnny Depp plays a gypsy musician heart-throb with a weakness for hot chocolate. Juliette Binoche owns a chocolate shop and she prepares her South American chocolate in many, many ways but wins his heart with her hot chocolate with chili pepper added (that and the fact she's gorgeous.) You can find discs of Mexican chocolate in the Mexican section of some groceries or at a store called Taza in Somerville but I just buy mine online. Amazon carries several different kinds. I like the Ibarra but they have recently added a full line of Taza in a variety of flavors including cinnamon, vanilla, chili, and yerba maté.
To prepare Mexican chocalate you'll need a hand grater, a wooden whip called a molinillo or a wire whip, and a sturdy earthenware or some other pitcher. Grate the chocolate into a fine powder and put it in the pitcher, bring water to a boil, pour it over the chocolate and stir to melt, then vigorously whip the brew with the molinillo until it begins to froth. That's the simple version. If you look online you can find dozens of variations which include adding heavy cream, evaporated milk, regular milk, spices, and more.
Since I like mine in coffee I just grate enough to make about 2 tablespoonsful, add it to my coffee mug, fill with coffee and stir to dissolve then add a splash of half-and-half. Yum.
I haven't tried the hot chocolate with chili yet but it is on my list of things to try once the weather gets cold. In my on going love affair with Nuts.com, I ordered some of their cayenne chocolate savouries and these devilish little things are incredible because 1.) they taste wonderful and 2.) they are so spicy you can only eat a few at a time (at least I can) which is a good thing because of #1.
So as the weather gets increasingly cold and wintery and the snow piles up or threatens to, it's a good time to put a little Mexican heat in your evenings, or mornings, or afternoons, with real Mexican hot chocolate. And, who knows, the fragrance might lure a delicious chocolate-loving gypsy to your door. Yum.
Thanks for reading.