At long last, we come to the dessert for the Fifth Annual Birthday Dinner. I knew that it would have to be something with components that I could prepare in advance, requiring only a final plating before service. I also knew that it should be chocolate, especially after asking my guests to try something as unusual as the Dry Caramel, Salt transition from savory to sweet. I found the Marquis au Chocolat, Crème Anglaise et Pistaches in the Bouchon cookbook; it met all of my requirements and gave me an excuse to buy a fancy terrine mold I had my eye on.
I made the crème anglaise first, starting with a cup of heavy cream, a cup of milk, seven tablespoons of sugar, a split vanilla bean, and five large egg yolks.
I combined the cream, milk, and four tablespoons of the sugar in a saucepan, adding the vanilla bean dn the seeds scraped from the bean’s interior.
I brought the mixture to a simmer, then covered and removed it from the heat, letting it infuse for half an hour.
I whisked the yolks and remaining sugar until the mixture thickened and lightened in color.
I whisked some of the hot cream into the yolks to temper them, returned the mixture to the pan with the rest of the cream, and cooked over low heat for about ten minutes until the custard thickened and coated the back of a spoon. I poured it into a bowl set over ice and stirred until the custard had cooled.
I stored the crème anglaise in the fridge until final plating, and moved on to the terrine. Once again, ingredients were assembled: twelve ounces of bittersweet chocolate (Valrhona Manjari 64%), eight and a half ounces of unsalted butter, four large eggs (separated), four additional egg yolks, one and a third cups of confectioner’s sugar, a third of a cup of cocoa powder, a half cup plus one tablespoon of heavy cream, and two teaspoons of granulated sugar.
While the chocolate and butter melted in a double boiler set over hot water, I sifted together the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder.
I let the chocolate mixture cool slightly, then stirred in the egg yolks and the sugar/cocoa mixture.
I whipped the cream to soft peaks,
and put it in the fridge while I whipped the egg whites and granulated sugar into soft peaks.
I folded the whites, and then the cream, into the chocolate mixture.
I poured the chocolate into the plastic-lined terrine mold, covered the top with plastic, and stored it in the fridge with the heavy lid in place. At this point there was absolutely no room left in the fridge for anything else — the entire dinner menu was in there.
While the chocolate chilled, I prepared a cup of raw shelled pistachios by blanching them in boiling water to loosen the skins, then spent the next hour slipping skins off of about a hundred pistachios. I toasted them on a sheet pan in a 350 °F oven for about seven minutes, let them cool, set aside thirty six whole nuts, and roughly chopped the rest.
For the final assembly, I sauced each plate with the crème anglaise, unmolded the terrine and cut it into quarter-inch slices (using a meat slicer heated in hot water), arranged them over the custard, topped with three whole pistachios, and garnished the edges with chopped nuts.
I served a Taylor Fladgate twenty year old tawny port with the terrine, not wanting to mess with the classic chocolate/port combination.
I don’t need to tell you how it tasted: you already know, because it’s chocolate. A very dense, deep, velvety chocolate that absolutely needed the lightness of the crème and the astringency of the port to keep it from overwhelming the palate.
I basked in the glow of another successfully (for the most part) executed dinner for about a minute, when, to my utter horror, I found my self thinking: What will I serve next year?
Chocolate, pistachios, cream, butter: Whole Foods
Eggs: Feather Ridge Farms
Port: The Wine and Cheese Cask