I love my work. I love my time in the kitchen, this blog, writing for websites, writing articles and working with Easy Eats Magazine, which has been an incredible trip so far.
But I’ve recently been made aware that unless someone demands that I turn off for a little bit and just enjoy… well, I don’t naturally do it for myself. I so love how I fill my time that it seems I’ve forgotten the joys of an entire day without a computer, a smart phone, a fully stocked baking kitchen, or a to-do list. So last weekend my father and brother intervened and forced me to leave my computer and phone at home and spend the weekend in the hills of Vermont with nothing but a grill, campfire, a few ATVs and rocky trails, and some pretty awesome people. Tough love, right?
At first light Saturday morning I jumped in a van with the Dusty Brother, Mitra, my cousins Brien and Tanya and their daughter Maria. We had the ATVs strapped onto a trailer, a huge pile of wood, a mess of groceries and way too much booze for four adults.
And, by George, it was an incredible weekend. Cold, but not frigid. We stayed in the framework of a house my father and the boys were in the process of building: no electricity or running water, but some basic kitchen equipment, a propane grill and rooms with mattresses on which we layered sleeping bags and warm blankets.
My brother introduced me to the thrill that is racing ATVs through rocky mountain paths – they were definitely rough. But the childhood drive to keep up with my baby bro led me to maneuvering a huge machine through mud puddles, between low branches, and up an intense, rocky, uneven hill that definitely inspired an inner pep talk before I got the courage to plow up it (in fairness I had totally made Dusty Bro drive the thing DOWN for me cause I totally thought I’d flip the thing, and he gave me no choice but to go back up alone – which I did, better than him, if I say so myself). We raced down the windy streets at crazy speeds and came home muddy and exhausted. I want to do that every day.
Food was never far away, and I found incredible peace cooking simply: a skillet apple pie, hot toddies, roasted Brussels Sprouts and potatoes, a breakfast of steak and eggs, and a little improvised concoction I’m calling Spicy Mexican Mulled Red Wine Cocoa, that kept us warm and dizzy as we toasted by the fire.
Warming, sweet and pungent, it was inspired by Paul A. Young’s Adventures in Chocolate. I saw his demo at the NY Chocolate Show and fell in love with his recipe. I’ll be making it soon in full at my holiday dinner. But for this trip I merely used what I had – some crushed Mexican chocolate I had spiced up for an article, a good bottle of red wine, some dark chocolate left over from S’Mores and some decaffeinated tea bags that were seasonally spicy. The result was rich, warming and festive – perfect when the sun went down early and the darkness brought on a bitter chill the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Spicy Mexican Mulled Red Wine Cocoa
Prepare in Advance:
Crush two disks of Mexican chocolate into a fine powder. Add a dash or two of cayenne pepper, two dashes of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Preserve in an air-tight container.
Bring on the trip:
- The Mexican cocoa
- 1 large bar of dark chocolate
- 3 chai, ginger or some sort of spicy teabags
- 1 bottle of dark red wine
- some sugar
- A medium saucepan
- Hot cups
- In the saucepan, combine the cocoa and enough water to just dissolve it.
- Put the saucepan on heat, and add enough wine to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat to steaming.
- Add teabags, and let infuse for about 15 minutes.
- Remove teabags, add the chocolate (chopped) and stir until it dissolves.
- Add the rest of the wine, and bring up to a steam (don’t simmer, as you want to keep the alcohol in!)
- Serve and enjoy around a blazing fire.