Chocolate, Essex Street Market, NYC, 2.14.09
I finally got my Aunt Flora's chocolate pie recipe. Dense, rich, smooth, it may be a perfect food. I haven't had it in over 20 years, but I remember it still. This is the power of chocolate.
Chocolate is a good thing, but like all things of power and beauty chocolate needs to be respected. I have gone one on one with chocolate - on more than one occasion and chocolate has always won. Cacao has a bitter flavor and the bitter flavor in Chinese medicine is associated with the heart. As you might imagine, it's best to proceed with caution here. Actually, many mainstream studies have connected chocolate to a reduction in cardiovascular risks and protection against cancer. So chocolate, once the bane of acne prone teenagers, has experienced redemption. Yes, chocolate has anti-oxidants, could anything be more perfect?
Chocolate is more that a sum of its chemical constituents, however. The Aztecs thought the cacao tree was stolen from paradise and indulging in chocolate, is still for many, going over to the dark side. Chocolate is warming, a stimulant, by virtue of its theobromine content. It actually has very little caffeine. Again, stimulation itself is not evil. As always it's a matter of dosage. If you're not responding to something, you're dead.
Chocolate has become the symbolic food for our national heart holiday, Valentine's Day. I've wondered, though, with all the bitter foods, how did chocolate win out? Why not give bunches of arugula? And why does the bitter flavor go to the heart anyway? Enlightenment happened on the F train, between 14th and 23rd streets. The bitter flavor drains. It drains fire. It drains heart fire. A cleared heart could flow with the Dao unencumbered by emotional baggage.
Arugula is bitter and spicy. Chocolate is usually bitter and sweet since we combine the cacao with sugar in most applications. Arugula goes to the heart, but in a dispersing kind of way. It goes in expands outward and shakes things up due to it's spicy flavor. With chocolate, the bitter plays with our heart, but the sugar makes the process linger, drags it out like some romantic indiscretion that has gone on for way too long, but from which we cannot and don't really want to escape.The arugula bouquet warrants immediate change, the box of Godiva, well, we don't want to get rid of that until we're good and ready.
I'll bet that guy in the Springsteen song ate an arugula salad followed by a 70% + chocolate bar before leaving his wife and kids in Baltimore.
Aunt Flora's chocolate pie recipe would be in the strategic impurity section of your recipe collection. I'm sure someone can come up with a "healthy" version with agave sweetener or something like that. I just couldn't. Maybe I can convince myself that the lemon peel makes up for the stickiness of the rest of the recipe, but that's another blog entry to come.
Flora's Chocolate Pie
1 cup flour, 2 egg yolks, 3 scant tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, 7 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon lemon rind.
Mix all these together to form a ball, wrap in foil or plastic or wax paper and refrigerate while making the chocolate filling.
4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, 2 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, 4 eggs, 3 cups milk, large piece of lemon rind, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Heat milk and flour until lukewarm then and add melted chocolate, sugar, beaten eggs, and lemon rind. Stir and cook until thickened. Remove lemon rind and add vanilla.
Pour chocolate filling into pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
The take away here is chocolate is not evil. We won't discuss Ho Hos. These sorts of things are not chocolate. They are escapees from an alien universe. Remember to keep chocolate out of reach of your pets. For them it's poisonous. You, however, can eat it if it makes you happy, but remember that draining a bit can be good, the roto-rooter approach perhaps not.