Chow Town

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It’s Valentines Week, which means it’s time for chocolate

02/13/2014 6:27 PM

02/13/2014 6:27 PM

It’s Valentine’s Week in Kansas City and love is in the air.

Men are rushing around making reservations at restaurants and ordering flowers for their sweethearts. local chocolatiers such as Christopher Elbow and Patric are busy 24 hours each day this week producing boxes of chocolate.

Bakeries such as Farm To Market are baking special chocolate bread. Breweries such as Boulevard Brewing Co. are selling chocolate ale and pastry chefs such as Erin Reynolds Brown of Dolce are busy preparing special desserts for everyone.

As for this chef, I am preparing for one of the busiest weekends of the year but also I am preparing my favorite chocolate liqueur for Valentine’s Day.

Here is a little information and some history for one of my favorite holidays. Being Italian, I know that Valentine’s Day had to have its origin in Italy. After researching, I found out that in Italy, Valentine’s Day is also referred to as “La Festa Degli Innamorati.” It is really only celebrated by adults and those who are in love. Parties, treats and Valentine’s Day cards are not really passed out amongst children.

Recently, Italian’s profess their love on Valentine’s Day by attaching padlocks or “lucchetti” to bridges and railings and throwing away the key. Too cool and unique indeed.

Of course, Italians enjoy a special romantic dinner with their loved ones and pass out chocolates and flowers. The most famous chocolate is Perugina Baci (kisses) that have a little love saying written on paper and placed inside the chocolate.

As for Valentine’s history, according to La Gazetta Italiana, Valentine’s Day actually has its origin in the Roman Empire as a holiday on Feb. 14 to celebrate the Queen of Roman gods and goddesses. The ancient Romans also considered this queen named Juno to be the goddess Queen of Women and Marriage.

Another legend related to the origin of Valentine’s Day refers to St. Valentine who was a priest who defied the Roman emperors’ order banning marriage between lovers during wartime and Valentine secretly married them. Once this was discovered, he was put to death on Feb. 14 and later was named a saint by Pope Gelasius.

This past week, it just so happened that a box of Ghirardelli Chocolate arrived at my restaurant for review and recipe development. My job was to experiment with various recipes using just chocolate.

Of course I made some brownies and my father’s old recipe for Death by Chocolate, a very popular dessert at Jasper’s Restaurant. I also prepared a couple of chocolate sauces along with a Chocolate Panna Cotta and a sinful Chocolate Budino. I know, it’s a tough job but hey, someone has to do it.

One recipe that I have been experimenting with for the past couple of years is a homemade chocolate liqueur. I like to call it Chocolate Cello.

A good friend of mine, Vicki Bledsoe gave me the idea a few years back and we have traded recipes and tasting the past two years. Bledsoe added cherry to hers and it was outstanding. I really liked the flavor and it reminded me of a chocolate covered cherry. Ha, this could be dangerous but in a good way, of course.

It was now time to start working on a master recipe that I could serve at my restaurant and share with my guests. I thought I had my work cut out for me and it would be a long day of experimenting so I went to work in the culinary laboratory and decided to make this very rich and creamy liqueur but also try to figure out a way to simplify the recipe.

Usually, grain alcohol is used to prepare liqueurs, but I like to use vodka. I also have substituted the cream with condensed milk. I know, it has more calories but wow, it is delicious. After just two batches, I had it down.

The process was very easy and I think you will really enjoy this simple recipe. For added flavor, I added a simple cherry syrup that you can purchase at your local grocery store or coffee shop. If you do not like cherry, you can add salted caramel, peppermint, cinnamon, toffee the list is really endless.

You may want to sip this after dinner in a cordial glass, add to a cup of fresh brewed coffee or hot chocolate. Top it with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream and you have a delicious dessert drink.

You can also pour Chocolate Cello over ice cream and add some nuts, whipped cream and cherries or you can use as a sauce for your favorite brownies, cake, warm cookie or pastry. Talk about delicious.

I do hope you enjoy your Valentine’s Day with someone special and perhaps toast this special day with some of my homemade Chocolate Cello.

Amici, vi amo! Friends, I love you!

Jasper Mirabile’s Chocolate Cello 8 ounces of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Chips 2 cups Eagle Brand Condensed Milk 1/2 cup cherry syrup 32 ounces of vodka

In a 2 quart pot, melt chocolate and condensed milk over medium heat. Add cherry syrup. Do not boil. Stir and remove from heat. Add vodka and mix thoroughly. Place in bottle and chill.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.

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