Lucky Dessert Pairing (with recipe)

Last night I got lucky by pairing a delicious and unusual port that I had never before tasted with a chocolate mousse to great effect. The recipe for the mousse will follow, but first some information about the port. The wine was a Petite Sirah port from Imagery Winery in Sonoma.

The port was chosen mainly out of curiosity. It was one of those bottles of wine that had been reached for many times, but always replaced back into the rack either due to the food not being special enough or fear that special food would not match well with an untried wine. Last night it didn’t go back into the rack.

My initial concern was that due to the grape the wine might be too tannic. Upon opening it and getting a good impression of the nose it seemed that my concern might be justified. In a blind tasting I would have probably guessed at a big California Cab. There were none of the distinctive smells that one usually associates with port. Then I tasted it.

Surprisingly, it was medium sweet with a very strong cocoa presence followed by lesser fig and plum notes, and just a slight raisiny finish. The tannins I had feared, while present, were very well balanced. Quite delicious on its own, savoring a few sips temporarily made me forget it was to be paired with the mousse.

Port is not typically the first wine I reach for, that would be my wife’s choice usually, she is a fiend about the stuff, but I can take it or leave it. I find that many ports can be too syrupy for my palate, and taste cloyingly of prunes. Don’t get me wrong, in the right mood and with the right accompaniment, port can be a wonderful drink. It just isn’t my choice for every day. This wine could change my mind.

The mousse was intentionally made to pair with wine, so it wasn’t as sweet as some recipes might be. A bite of the dessert followed by a sip of the port confirmed that both were good choices. The cocoa notes in the wine matched the cocoa in the mousse, the fruit accents amplified all of the flavors, and the tannins combined with the fat from the butter, cream and egg yolks in ways that I can’t even describe. The mouth feel was wonderful.

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Imagery’s Petit Syrah Port, I highly recommend trying this mousse with it. Even if you can’t find any, this recipe should pair with any decent port.

6 ozs bittersweet baking chocolate
5 egg yolks
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbls vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners sugar

Pour a little over half of the heavy cream into a metal mixing bowl, and 1 tbls of the vanilla and beat into stiff peaks. Set aside, just not too far aside.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, taking care not to overheat it, or allow any water to splash into the top pan. A good method is to bring the water to a boil, or very close, then turn off the heat before adding the chocolate. Gently stir the entire time to ensure even heating. Once the chocolate is completely melted start incorporating the butter by adding small pieces. When one piece is thoroughly melted and mixed in add another until it is all added. Now turn your heat back on and begin mixing in the egg yolks. As soon as they are incorporated, immediately remove from the heat and temper with a couple spoonfuls of the unsweetened whipped cream mixture. We want to cool down the mixture slightly to keep the eggs from breaking.

Now, slowly begin folding the chocolate mixture a little at a time into the whipped cream. Do not over mix. Once is has all been combined, cover bowl and refrigerate.

Whip up the remaining cream and vanilla. When you reach the soft peak stage begin sifting in the sugar and you continue to whip the cream. When you reach the stiff peak stage, cover and refrigerate.

Once the mousse has a slight chill, it is ready to eat. As it is being served with an unchilled wine, I would suggest not letting it get too cold. Spoon some into the vessel of your choice, top it with the whipped cream, and serve.

This should make 6 servings, although we divided it into 4 and made a lot of pig noises while we enjoyed it.

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