I’m sitting on the train with my husband making our way to New York. Ric hasn’t been on a train in ten years and is excited to travel this way. I love trains. When I was a teenager living in London, I would occasionally cut class and hop a train out of town with a couple of girlfriends. We would usually go off to locations like Canterbury or Bath for the day, visiting cathedrals and historical sites. Today when I look back on those days, it is clear to me that I gained more of an education on those little jaunts than I ever would have sitting in the classroom back in Knightsbridge.
Trains are romantic, even today. Their slowness and rolling gait lulls me into a state of complete relaxation. I look out the window where I see a young woman in a little rowboat tied to a piling fishing by herself and I wonder what her story is. Is she lonely or simply enjoying a morning of solitude in her bucolic surroundings? I hope it is the latter.
Romance and love are funny things, so simple and yet, so often elusive and complicated. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I have been thinking about what that day used to mean to me when I was single as opposed to how it feels to me now that I am married.
There are women who do a girls night out for Valentine’s day if they don’t have a significant other, celebrating themselves and the joy of sisterhood, but I usually opted for spending the evening alone or having a quiet dinner with a friend or two. Not being too big on supporting the Hallmark holidays, I always felt that Valentine’s Day was truly a day for lovers and so I mostly ignored it since I found it slightly irritating.
Now that I am married, I still choose to keep it simple and intimate. I am eternally grateful and conscious of how lucky I am to have found my soul mate and perhaps because it came later in life for me, I truly understand how precious my time with Ric is and honor our relationship above all else.
I have also spent much of my life in the presence of death, having lost a number of loved ones much too soon, so I’ll never forget the frail nature of life. I know what it’s like to wish so desperately for just a few more minutes with someone who no longer graces this earth, just to be able to tell them how deeply I loved them and how profound it was to be blessed by their love for me. So while I was never the Valentine’s Day Grinch, I have softened a bit to the idea of a special day to extend thoughts of friendship and love to everyone in our lives, romantic or otherwise. So today, on Valentine’s Day and everyday, go ahead and tell those cherished individuals who share your life how much they mean to you and use the LOVE word generously.
In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d pass along this decadent chocolate soufflé recipe. Taking liberties with this divine French sweet, I’ve added a touch of Mexican flavor with a hint of cinnamon. I like to bake this dessert in little demitasse cups, which gives each person a shot of rich chocolate yumminess without going over the gluttony edge. Enjoy!
Mexican Chocolate Soufflé
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting the cups
3 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 percent cacao), melted
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brush ramekins or cups generously with the butter; coat with granulated sugar. Beat eggs whites with an electric hand mixer until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add cream of tartar and sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.Whisk milk into cornstarch, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan and then bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until thick, 1 to 2 minutes. Add chocolate (mixture will separate). Whisk in yolks and sour cream until smooth. Gently fold chocolate into egg whites.
Fill ramekins or cups approximately three-quarters of the way full with the batter. Bake on a baking sheet until soufflés rise but centers are still liquid, about 12 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately as they will begin to deflate very quickly once removed from the oven. Serve with heavy cream that can be poured into the center of the soufflé.
Make ahead tip: complete the recipe to the point of putting the batter into the baking vessels and then place into the fridge for up to two hours before baking.
Note: Heavy, double or Devon cream can be found in specialty stores or regular whipping cream from the grocery store will work just fine.
Makes 1 dozen demitasse, 6-7 regular tea cups (using 6 or 7 oz cups) or 4 traditional 7 ounce ramekins.