Yesterday, chef Eli Dahlin of the Walrus and the Carpenter talked about his rewarding, but also challenging experience of cooking in one of Seattle's most recognized kitchens. Today, Dahlin appropriately shares his recipe for an after dinner drink that's perfect for the holidays. Dahlin's hot cocoa uses Branca Menta, a mint flavored sister of the food industry's digestif of choice, Fernet Branca. "[Branca Menta] tastes like antique furniture, old books, and grandpa's toothpaste, but somehow works with chocolate, vanilla, and orange," said Dahlin. "It's worthwhile in this case to seek out a premium chocolate like Vahlrona. Chocolate Chips won't work unfortunately, because they contain cornstarch."
13 oz dark, high quality, lightly sweetened chocolate (not unsweetened baking chocolate)
1/2 cup un-dutched cocoa powder
1 bottle Fernet Branca Menta
Combine water, sugar, vanilla, dates, and orange zest in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow the ingredients to infuse for at least half an hour, preferably longer. Meanwhile, weigh out the chocolate (break it up a bit if it's not in small pieces) and place it in a large bowl with the cocoa powder. Pour about 1 cup of the boiling liquid onto the chocolate. Wait one minute, then stir with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is homogenous and smooth. This might require more hot liquid. Continue to mix the liquid and chocolate in 1 cup increments until all of it is incorporated. Add the coffee, and salt to taste. You've made hot chocolate! Now strain it.
When ready to serve, measure out 1 to 1 1/2 oz branca menta (or more according to your fortitude) into a coffee cup. Pour in 6 oz (3/4 c) of hot chocolate. Top with whipped cream and some orange zest.