Sunday, October 24, 2010

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Chartreuse Hot Chocolate

In Southern California, some stereotypes hold true. Some of us do keep surfboards at the office. Our local produce is, generally, fantastic. We do eat avocados and oranges right off the trees. Our temperate weather means the grill operates year-round. But it’s a mistake to think that we have no seasons here, as some assert. We have them. They are more subtle than in other places, perhaps, but we have them.

Our recent spate of bracing, wet weather was a reminder of that. In particular, it made me reminisce about foods I used to eat when I lived places with more distinctly unpleasant seasons. Last week’s egg noodles and pork ragout were one outgrowth of that nostalgia. Another has been hot chocolate spiked with Chartreuse.

The Pères Chartreux — the Carthusian monks who make Chartreuse — currently make several varieties of spirits, including genepi, walnut and fruit liqueurs. Although an 80 proof yellow version of their famous herbal liqueur is available, the monks’ green Chartreuse is most commonly mixed into drinks. At 110 proof, this ancient liqueur packs a punch and lends lovely vegetal notes to drinks. Since moving to California, I have never been without a bottle of the green. Never. The yellow? Harder to find on store shelves here.

I was prodded to add Chartreuse to hot chocolate on reading Madeline Scherb’s A Taste of Heaven. The book is part travel guide and part cookbook of meals one may find in abbeys — and convents — around the world. Given the brewing and distilling/rectifying traditions of many monasteries, it’s not surprising that abbey beers and a few liqueurs show up in recipes; beer soup with Achel, chicken livers over apples with an Orval reduction, caramelized bananas with Westmalle tripel and dark rum.

Chartreuse is such an assertive spirit that I can identify it by smell even from several feet away. I happen to love the smell and the taste. If you’re not certain you will, don’t use the whole amount called for below. Instead, start with less. If you like it, add more. Scherb calls this Christmas Cocoa. I’ve tweaked her proportions just a bit, but I say there’s no need to restrict it to Christmas.

Chartreuse Hot Chocolate

8-12 oz good quality hot chocolate
1 oz green Chartreuse (or less, see above)

Warm a mug with hot water. Toss the water and pour the hot chocolate into the warmed mug. Add green Chartreuse and stir. Breathe deeply as you drink. Let the aroma get into your lungs. Not the drink, of course. Chartreuse is fantastic, but there's no call to drown in the stuff.

Madeline Scherb (2009)
A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns
240 pages, paperback
Tarcher/Penguin
ISBN: 1585427187
$15.95

7 comments:

Carly said...

Chartreuse hot chocolate is the absolute best. The spicy/herby flavor of the stuff is just so great with chocolate. I like it with hot chocolate that's more dark chocolate flavored, especially.

Matthew Rowley said...

Glad to see I'm not alone in this, Carly. And, yes, the darker the chocolate, the better. Milk chocolate's got its place, but for this, I tend to go for 70%+ cocoa in the bars I grate into warmed cream (36% milkfat) or half-and-half (18-30%)

Jamie B said...

I think I might agree: http://spiritsandcocktails.wordpress.com/2007/12/29/winter-warmth/

Matthew Rowley said...

Nice, Jamie ~ I missed this the first time around or I surely would've linked to it (and quite possibly written about something else). The "wet" cream reveals a deft touch. Normally, I'm all for schlagobers on a hot cocoa, but it seemed excessive since I made mine with cream in the first place. Might have to loosen the belt and rethink. Cheers!

Rick said...

Oh cmon Rowley, you know you skipped linking Boudreau's post on purpose :) I actually made Jamie's version a while back and loved it - Chartreuse literally screws the love into chocolate. I can't wait for the Christmas season to have a chilled bottle of Chartreuse in my freezer for sipping purposes.

Jamie B said...

No prob. It needed revisiting as that post is three years old anyway. Nice to see someone else write about it, as it's one of my favorite cold weather drinks.

Chef Basket said...

This Chartreuse Hot Chocolate sounds wonderful. A perfect treat now that the days are becoming colder.