Monday, December 10, 2007

Egle's Monte Bianco for "Apples and Thyme"

Another grand Italian meal was put on in our disco come Olympics room this past Sunday by Fabrizio 's Mama and Papa. I thought since there was another occasion to write something for Passionate Palate and Vanielje Kitchen's
"Apples and Thyme" event this month I thought I would try and stick to my local Italian theme and feature my mother in law Egle(Italian for Eagle). Egle is an amazing woman that is boundless energy in a small package. She's always got something going aside from having Fabrizio's fathers meals on the table at very precise times. She's an excellent seamstress and loves to refabricate old clothes into new stylish ones, she always fussing over her plots of flowers that she has scoured all over our mountain to bring home and find an honored place for her lastest flowering discovery. Then there is the family garden here that is really Dante's domain, but there is the old family fruit trees to look after and pick up all the windfalls and make sure they don't go off before we eat them, she made us a delicious batch of persimmon marmalade yesterday.
When it's mushroom season you won't find her sitting at home by the fire. She has a curiosity that doesn't stop and loves to try new foods and combinations. She and Dante built and ran the restaurant next door for over thirty years, so she has lots of practice cooking for a crowd and still likes to entertain. So the traditional Sunday lunch was a feast as usual and everyone was groaning under the strain of proscuitto crudo with fresh pineapple, prawn, fresh coconut and almond salad, appropriately called Insalata Fantasia, many layered lasagne, beef arrosto, with fried potatoes from this year crop, rabbit in "umido" with caramelized carrots, local Toma cheese, and all before the" Macedonia" fruit salad, Dante's traditional banana gelato, fresh made as we digested a bit and then, to finish us off, drum roll please....ta da......Monte Bianco

or sometimes more well known by the French side name of Mont Blanc.
She says it's Dante's favorite dessert, but I know that she cannot resist thick and creamy whipped cream. Monte Bianco is a cream lovers fantasy. I didn't make it to the dessert this time as I was finished off early on and sat out a few rounds on Sunday, as I wasn't feeling quite up to par. It is a fitting dessert this time of year. The actual mountain is just a few valleys over from us along the French border. It's visible from the tops of the mountains across from us and easy to spot in the summer as the glacier is still quite visible. I took the picture above a few years ago when Fabrizio and I were working in the Aosta valley one winter before we resurrected our baita here.

This dessert is not for those on a diet, but a tasty and visual treat once in a while.


Monte Bianco for 4

1 kg of chestnuts, if in the shell, score an x in the shell cutting through to the nutmeat
1 twig of rosemary
1/2 liter of milk
100 grams of sugar
2 Tb of cocoa powder
1 Tb rum
1/4 liter of heavy cream

potato ricer

Combine in a pot with a lid, the chestnuts in the shell with the rosemary and add enough cold water to just cover. Simmer, till the nuts are just soft and easy to peel, about 20 minutes. If using shelled, dry chestnuts, simmer till just barely soft, or bring to a boil and let set in the rosemary water to infuse with flavor. Drain the water. Take the peeled chestnuts and combine in a clean pot combine with the milk and sugar and again simmer gently until the chestnuts are very soft and all the milk has been absorbed. Add the cocoa and rum and smash a bit to mix and absorb the rum. This mixture is run through the ricer while still warm but not hot, onto a clean serving plate, shaping a cone styled mountain, just letting the mixture fall onto itself in a mound. This could be done onto individual plates also. Let cool completely.
Whip your cream to soft but firm peaks, being careful not to over whip. Europeans are keen on fresh whipped cream with out any sweetening, so this is what the recipe calls for. The sweetness comes from the sweetened chestnuts. The north American taste buds are more accustomed to sweetened whipped cream with a bit of vanilla, so feel free to adjust the whip cream to your taste. I would caution to not sweeten the cream too much. Better a subtle sweetness to keep the dessert from being cloying and not too much vanilla that would overwhelm the flavor of the chestnuts.
Decorate the the mound with the whipped cream making your very own Monte Bianco. Garnish with "Marron glace", pieces (large chestnuts cooked in syrup) and chocolate shavings making sure there is plenty of whipped cream showing. It is a glacier after all and has more white showing than other features like trees and rocks.
Serve cold in a pool of caramel or chocolate sauce.



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