If you're like me, you think Valentine's day is a bit silly and commercialized. And yet, you can feel free to call us hypocrites, because Mark and I always do something for Valentine's day anyway. I find it is a very good excuse to cook something special, to drink champagne with dinner, and to eat a dessert with as much cream as possible. No flowers (ok, I do like flowers but lately I'm more into houseplants) and no chocolates (though a wheel of Cowgirl Red Hawk would never be an unwelcome gift) required, though.
On our first Valentine's day together, Mark set the standard for all future Valentine's days by cooking me dinner at his apartment. I still remember that night perfectly, because I was a wide-eyed college sophomore who had never had a boy go to so much trouble -- making Hollandaise sauce and vanilla bean crème brûlée from scratch! -- just for me. I was so impressed. The dinner wasn't without mishaps, though; Mark's attempt to cook the sugared tops of the crème brûlée using the broiler and a bit of rum was a failure, and he eventually just scraped off the rum-soaked, burned tops so we could eat the underlying custard. He was embarrassed, but I thought the whole night was just perfect anyway. And ever since, I've insisted on low-key Valentine's dinners at home.
This year, the honor and responsibility of preparing our dinner falls on me. I thought I would keep the dinner part fairly simple -- mussels steamed with fennel, white wine, herbs and cream, with crispy frites and an arugula/pear/goat cheese salad on the side. (I don't mind doing advance prep work, but I like to plan a menu that won't involve a lot of after-dinner cleaning.) And for dessert? Let me bold it, just to properly demonstrate how excited I was to make this: dark chocolate mousse, spiked with single malt whisky for my whisky-loving husband, and heaped with the heaping-est heap of whipped cream there ever was.
I was hoping to have a recipe to share with you today, but it is with some regret that I report the recipe I used didn't work for me at all. Something happened between melting the chocolate and folding in whipped egg whites, and my chocolate (which started out so silky and glossy!) seized. The final mousse is soft, creamy ... and riddled with little chunks of seized chocolate. However, the good news is that it is downright impossible to make the combination of good bittersweet chocolate, farm fresh eggs and whipped cream, sugar, espresso, and single malt whisky taste bad. It actually tastes quite wonderful, if you can ignore the texture (and I believe we can). Then, it occurred to me that my chocolate mousse mishap is rather similar to Mark's crème brûlée mishap, so let's toast: whether your creme brulee is lacking a crackled top, or your chocolate mousse is lumpy, here is to eating dessert with someone who doesn't care one bit.