Despite it being the beginning of summer, I’ve really had a craving for some hot chocolate. Of course, we all know the story: Moctezuma and the Aztecs just crushed the beans and frothed the mixture to make a chocolate drink. What people don’t know is that only Moctezuma liked it: it was so sour and spicy that most Aztecs hated it, except for their King. When Cortez came to conquer them, he sat with Moctezuma as he drank his daily dose of chocolate drink. Cortez was offered some, probably as a joke to see his reaction, and he actually liked it. If it wasn’t for Moctezuma’s love of the drink, and Cortez’s as well, the western world would never have had hot chocolate. Of course, most people felt like the Aztecs and hated the unsweetened drink, so for us westerners, sugar and milk were added. And thus, we end up with a drink that we know and love. My favorite version is the modern Mexican version, which has a spicy kick and an amazing froth on the top. Here’s how I did mine.
- 1 cup whole milk - 1/4 cup sugar - 2 tablespoons shaved dark chocolate (I used 100% cacao. Use the darkest you can find) - 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (use a nice cocoa powder) - 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon - 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg - 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract - pinch of ground cayenne - pinch of salt
With a serrated knife, shave the dark chocolate into very small strips, or even into dust. This should use about 1/5 of your bar of chocolate.
In a small saucepan of medium low heat, add the milk and stir occasionally until it is very hot, but not quite boiling. You’ll know when it begins to steam a bit. Then, add the sugar and stir until incorporated with a whisk. Then add the cinnamon, cayenne, vanilla, and nutmeg, stirring constantly. Slowly incorporate the two chocolates. When the chocolate is nicely incorporated, add the salt.
The frothing is the next step. I chose to use a blender, as my culinary exemplar Jeffrey Steingarten suggests in “It Must Have Been Something I Ate”. After pouring the hot chocolate into the blender, I promptly turned it to “frappe”. The lid was not as secure as it should have been, which made my glasses, shirt, jeans, and floor more chocolaty than they should have been. After a hasty cleanup, I repeated the process and repeated the results. Fortunately, I was able to achieve a wonderful froth that I enjoyed as I cleaned the counters and floor. I probably should have used a whisk, but that would’ve been tedious. If you use a blender, you won’t need to blend for more than a few seconds, and make sure your lid is on securely. If you decide to play it safe and go with a vigorous whisking, make sure you leave the hot chocolate on low heat as you go so it will stay hot.
Serve in a wide mug that allows for even froth distribution. Makes one big serving, or two smaller ones. By the way, this is a really romantic end to a date.
For my first meal back home, my mum and I decided to make some quick shrimp tacos. These tacos were delicious and really easy, a perfect way to relax after a hectic week (along with a few beers of course). The mango salsa gives a perfect fruity flavor to work with the spiciness of the chilies, and the whole thing is just an explosion of summer flavor. Plus, it was Cinco de Mayo, which is a perfect excuse for me to make some Mexican inspired shrimp tacos.
-1 pound shrimp -1 jalapeno, minced -3 cloves of garlic, minced -1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped -1 teaspoon cumin -2 limes -1 tablespoon vegetable oil -1 large mango, cubed -1/2 red onion, diced -pinch of allspice -1 serrano, minced -Kosher salt -ground black pepper
Detail and de-vein the shrimp. Let them dry on a paper towel. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the mango, onion, serrano, juice and zest of one lime, kosher salt, about 1/3 of the cilantro, and the allspice. Cover and refrigerate.
In a large plastic bag, mix together the jalapeno, garlic, cumin, juice of one lime, vegetable oil, kosher salt, pepper, and most of the rest of the cilantro. Add the shrimp and mix until they are evenly coated. Seal the bag and leave at room temperature to marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Add oil to a cast iron skillet. Once hot, add the shrimp, turning as they become pink. Remove from heat once both sides are pink and the shrimp is cooked through, 2-3 minutes. You can also skewer them and put them on a grill, turning after a minute. Serve in corn tortillas with the salsa, some shredded cabbage, lime wedges, and the extra cilantro. For extra points, add slices of avocado.
I have recently moved into my college dorm at Lewis and Clark College. Expect more reviews and rants from the Portland food scene coming soon.
In the meantime, I will at least tell you about one little taqueria I tried on my first night in Portland. Completely on a whim, I went to Por Que No? on Mississippi. This little dive delivers what I believe to be a quintessential Portland eating experience.
Before seating yourself, you must join the line of people ordering (it usually extends out the door). There are various table arrangements inside and outside the restaurant that lend themselves well to a very informal ambiance. All the funky decor makes the restaurant feel very homey and inviting, reflecting the interesting food and friendly vibe of the restaurant. The food comes either in baskets or on multi-colored plates resembling the Fiesta-ware of the 50’s. Service is very friendly and accomodating, and very prompt in delivering your food, if a bit slow taking orders at the counter.
The drink selection is impressive, with many different flavors of Jarritos, Mexican beers, and assorted mixed drinks. Their menu is equally impressive, with many different tacos, from octopus to steak. All tacos come a la carte for just $3. There are other options for more full meals, and I opted for the tamale plate with a plate of spicy cucumbers, guacamole, and chips. The chips were very freshly fried, and it was apparent that they were not afraid to salt them, which is a concern with many Mexican restaurants nowadays. Guacamole was equally fresh and chunky with lots of garlic, just the way Guacamole should be. The spicy cucumbers were very simple: sliced cucumbers with lime juice and some cayenne sprinkled over them. To be honest, they weren’t that spicy, but they were refreshing nonetheless. Rice and beans were both fresh and cooked properly, with accompanying garnishes of cilantro and queso fresco. Unfortuantely, the salsa was not mind blowing or imventive. It was good traditional salsa, but I could’ve done with out it. But the beef tamale was excellent. Perfectly steamed in it’s husk wrapper, with just the right amount of spice, and a subtle, sultry mole on top. And the entire plate was only $6.50. What an amazing price! Everything was priced quite cheaply for the excellent freshness and quality of the food. A diner could expect to spend no more than $10 for a very fulfilling meal. I am certainly going back, spending my meager budget on chorizo tacos and tamales. It’s a worthy use of money, in my opinion.