Let’s Talk Food: Champagne, chocolate and candlelight spark passion

In less than a week, we’ll experience the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day. Flowers, candy and gorgeous jewelry will make a fabulous impression on your sweetie. However, experts at the art of love agree that alluring food and tantalizing love potions create a most romantic mood. Some of the greatest amorous conquests have occurred over a candlelight dinner.

The notorious Marquis de Sade said with great authority, “A good dinner can cause a physical voluptuousness.” Casanova paid as much attention to his gastronomical conquests as he did his sexual smorgasbord. A study of his memoirs reveals that he beat a steady path, back and forth from the table to his bed, and food was the main weapon in his personal war on female chastity.

All through history, romantic characters have used food to seduce. Madam Du Barry was almost as well-known for her ginger omelettes, stuffed capon, terrapin soup and crawfish bisque as she was for her lovemaking. If Madame Pompadour asked you in for an evening, you could expect such delicacies as truffles, chocolate bombe and celery soup seasoned with vanilla. Guests of the Duc de Richelieu never worried about wearing the proper attire. All guests and servants appeared naked, which meant no one worried about spilling the soup or soiling their tuxedos and designer gowns. A great many romantic souls have been misled about the subtle art of using food in seduction. There is a great difference between serving aphrodisiacs and serving truly sophisticated, seductive foods. If you’ve a mind to seduce someone who needs aphrodisiacs in order to liven up his or her libido, your mission can almost be classified as impossible. Seductive foods have an immediate effect; aphrodisiacs take time.

Aphrodisiacs are, in the delicate language of Webster, those drinks or food which excites the sexual desires. Through the ages, such foods as oysters, truffles, caviar, lobsters, raw eggs, Roquefort cheese, potatoes, Chinese sturgeon and a multitude of other culinary curiosities have been recommended. However, few testimonials to their effectiveness appear in culinary history.

One food, however, has proven to be effective in eliciting affection, if not passion, when served to the object of one’s desire. It is chocolate, for few can resist this delicious treat; no matter in what form it is served. And serve it with the most potent of love potions, vintage Champagne and conquest is a certainty.

If you are timid in the kitchen but bold and daring in your pursuit, I recommend that you buy the most sinfully rich chocolate dessert offered by bakeries and pastry shops. Chill a bottle of Champagne, light the candles, turn down the lights, put on that Barry Manilow record and let your conscience and your desires be your guide.

And if you truly are hell¬bent on snaring the object of your affection and are courageous and willing to do almost anything for love, bake a chocolate cake. Take him or her out for dinner (no need to wilt at a hot stove) and bring him or her back to your place for this gorgeous creation. The wine may be chilling, but this little enterprise will win over the most reluctant suitor. Yes, it might be 2012 and all you sophisticates find food rather jaded, but, honey, nobody can dispute that the way to a lover’s heart is directly through the stomach. Especially when the stomach is full of chocolate cake and intoxicating Champagne.

Trust me, this recipe is a surefire way to inspire marriage, engagement or any other romantic scheme you can conjure up.

CHOCOLATE VALENTINE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup butter

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup butter, softened

3 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup milk

2/3 cup finely ground almonds

3 tablespoons sugar Chocolate chip glaze (recipe follows)

Whipped cream, for decorating

Raspberries or strawberries for garnish

DIRECTIONS

1 Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2 Generously grease and flour 2 heart-shaped or round pans, 9-by-1½ inches.

3 In a small saucepan, melt ¼ cup butter.

4 Remove from heat and stir in cocoa.

5 In large mixer bowl combine 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup butter and beat until creamy.

6 Beat in chocolate mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and almond extracts.

7 Gradually add flour, salt and milk; beat until well blended.

8 Stir in ground almonds.

9 In small mixer bowl, beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add 3 tablespoon sugar and beat just until soft peaks form.

10 Gently fold into chocolate mixture. Divide batter evenly between cake pans.

11 Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

12 Cool 10 minutes (Cake will settle slightly).

13 Invert onto wire rack; cool completely.

14 Prepare glaze.

15 Place one cake layer on serving plate and spoon on half the glaze.

16 Top with second layer.

17 Spread top and sides with remaining glaze.

18 Cool until glaze is set.

19 Whip the cream until it is thick and glossy. Place in cake decorating bag and make rosettes around the cake.

20 Garnish with raspberries or strawberries.

CHOCOLATE CHIP GLAZE

DIRECTIONS

1 In small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup water.

2 Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

3 Remove from heat; stir in 1 cup small semi-sweet chocolate chips and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.

4 Whisk or beat with spoon until well-blended. Use immediately.

Ask Doris

Q: My wife and I have been invited to a pot luck, and everyone has been asked to bring a dish from the state where each guest was born. We’re lucky that we come from Louisiana (great food) but unlucky since we are very poor cooks. I’m willing to try a shrimp stew and hope you can provide a recipe.

— Leonard Elias, Naples

A: I’ve had some mighty good grub in Louisiana, and this recipe should put you at the top of the list as best of cooks. This recipe calls for shrimp stock, made with the heads and tails. You can use clam juice or fish stock, but the shrimp stock adds much more flavor.

LOUISIANA SHRIMP STEW

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds medium to large shrimp, in their shells and if possible with tails.

4 cups shrimp stock

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 large onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green or red bell pepper, chopped

½ cup chopped scallions

6 cloves of garlic, chopped (1 tablespoon) Salt to taste 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Stock recipe:

Shells and heads from 2 dozen large shrimp

1 lemon, halved

1 large onion, quartered

1 stalk celery, with leaves, coarsely chopped

½ cup parsley

4 large garlic cloves, halved

4 bay leaves

DIRECTIONS

1 Place the shells and heads in a large pot and add 3 quarts of cold water.

2 Squeeze the lemon and then add the lemon halves, onions, celery, parsley, garlic and bay leaves.

3 Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that forms.

4 Reduce heat, keeping the stew at a low boil and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.

5 Strain the stock into a container, pressing the solids with a wooden spoon to extract the liquid.

6 Use immediately or allow the stock to cool to room temperature. This stock freezes well and keeps for about three months.

Freeze in air-tight containers.

Stew Instructions:

1 Shell the shrimp and use them to prepare the stock (see above).

2 Set aside 4 cups of stock.

3 Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan (use a cast-iron pot if available).

4 When oil is almost smoking, stir in the flour and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly, until the roux is a deep mahogany color.

5 Stir in the onions, celery, bell peppers, scallions, garlic and salt; the mixture will get clumpy as the roux begins to cool.

6 Cook, stirring and scraping frequently to prevent the flour from sticking, until the vegetables are soft and translucent, 6 to 9 minutes.

7 Slowly stir in the stock. When the mixture comes to a bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and deep brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

8 Stir in the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and just lose their translucence, 2 to 4 minutes.

9 Stir in the parsley and serve over the rice.

Doris Reynolds is the author of “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet Was Fried” and “Let’s Talk Food.” They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a four-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” For comments and information regarding today’s column, email Doris Reynolds at foodlvr25@aol.com.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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