Every year, I prepare a Valentine’s Day dinner for my DH and, these days, also our daughter. I try to pick a different theme each year (although the favourites, such as ancient Rome, have to be repeated occasionally because of popular demand). I’ve previously blogged about our Game of Thrones dinner and our Musketeer party.
This year, the theme was chocolate. This wasn’t simply because I love chocolate but mainly because my daughter once said we should have a meal where we just ate “chocolate foods”… so I decided to plan a menu where all courses included chocolate.
First I wrote a short text about why chocolate is an appropriate choice for Valentine's Day:
The ancient Aztecs regarded cocoa as food of the gods. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical or divine properties; it was used in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. Cocoa was used to make a drink xocoatl, considered a health elixir, with spices such as cinnamon or hot chili peppers.
The Aztec ruler Montezuma reportedly consumed cocoa elixir before heading off to his harem. He also welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez with a drink of chocolate, having mistaken the conquering invader for a reincarnated deity. Cortez brought cacao beans to the Spanish court where the pepper was replaced with sugar.
By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Rumour has it that Casanova, the legendary lover, was especially fond of chocolate.
Today, the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are ascribed to tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal, and phenylethylamine, a stimulant released in the brain when we fall in love. Whether even hard-core chocoholics can consume enough chocolate to cause a significant rise in those chemicals is debatable... but either way, chocolate is sweet and delicious and an ever-popular gift among lovers.
For appetisers, I served white chocolate and olive bruschettas. I chose these because the combination of flavours sounds rather unusual. In addition, I wanted to have at least one dish with white chocolate. You can see the recipe I used for inspiration here. Somewhat surprisingly, this was very good! The white chocolate and mozzarella melted into a delicious, creamy sauce, and while white chocolate is very sweet, olives are salty, and all the flavours just worked together wonderfully. I was told I have to start making these regularly!
The main course was chicken with chocolate mole sauce. I am aware that there are much more authentic recipes, but to save time, I referred to this and this. I have to say that this smelled divine as it cooked! It tasted delicious, too; the chocolate and nuts gave it a robust, earthy flavour. Very different from anything we’ve ever eaten, but we definitely enjoyed it. It was also a surprisingly sturdy, filling dish.
With the chicken, I served fresh bread and a salad with lettuce, oranges and dark chocolate shavings. Oranges and chocolate is a classic combination, after all (although not one I particularly enjoy…). I didn’t use any recipe for this, just tossed those ingredients together.
The dessert was the hardest choice for there were so many things I wanted to make! Finally I decided on cheesecake brownies, because I’ve always wanted to make them and also because it’s been years since I last made a batch of brownies. I used this recipe (in Finnish) and this (in English) and just sort of combined, tweaked, modified, adjusted… I was pretty sure I’d mess up the marble pattern… but it’s also something I’ve always wanted to try. And it wasn’t that difficult after all, or at least it worked out all right this time. Cake still in the pan:
This was pretty much what I expected: very chocolaty, with cake-like edges and a more molten core. My daughter told me it was “the best cake ever!” but then she went on to list just about every cake I’ve made in the past 18 months and they were all also “best cakes ever”, so…clearly, she likes cake.
This was a fun Valentine’s Day and it definitely included a lot of chocolate! Of course, that wasn’t quite enough for us, and once we’d put our daughter to bed, we finished the evening with these (and an episode of House, M.D. – how romantic! 😀).