I’m just back from visiting Santa Maria’s folks for the New Year. We ate well at their house, mostly because I did the cooking and the shopping. There’s little better, from my point of view, than going to the grocery store when on vacation. Ordinarily, going to the grocery store, especially in New York City, is a harried rushed affair.
On vacation, food shopping can be the opposite. The first day we were at Santa Maria’s folks’ house, I took the Nina and Pinta with me to the local Wegmans grocery store, and I was in paradise. The cart was as large as an aircraft carrier, and the aisles as broad as the Indian Ocean. I was so relaxed that we spent two-and-half hours in the store.
As a result of my massive shopping expedition, we had delicious meals. Lobster and mushroom risotto for New Year’s Eve, and black-eyed peas and collard greens the following day.
Our New Year’s Day gathering was the last of many family dinners this holiday season. First there was Christmas Eve dinner at my sisters (where my brother-in-law roasted whole fish and made a super savory pasta-with-anchovies side). Then there was Christmas dinner at my mothers. For both meals, my extended family was assembled around the table (or tables, as the case may have been). Aside from the cooking I did while visiting my in-laws, though, I took it pretty easy this holiday season. All of those meals were cooked by someone else. Santa Maria, on the other hand, contributed to every meal.
She made a multitude of desserts, and my favorite was a chocolate pudding that is good all year round—really fast, and really delicious. The recipe is adapted from Laurie David’s “The Family Dinner,” and it's true to its name. Santa Maria just makes it with leaner milk, and darker chocolate. The kids go mad for it.
Chocolate Pudding Fast
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 cups skim or 1% milk
- 4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (Santa Maria uses a 3.5 ounce bar of Green & Black’s organic 70% dark chocolate)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Stir the sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch together in a medium-sized saucepan. Gradually stir in the milk. Heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil and thicken, about 10 minutes.
Add the chocolate. Turn off the stove. Gently whisk until the chocolate is completely melted.
Stir in the vanilla and the salt. Pour into small custard cups. Serve warm or at room temperature. For a special occasion, like Christmas Day dinner at Grandma’s, top with whipped cream! Sprinkle a crushed candy cane on top!!
Note: If y0u don’t have cocoa powder, just use another ounce (about a third of a 3.5 ounce bar) of dark chocolate.
Makes 10 small or 5 generous servings (Can be doubled, as was the case over the holidays, above. It can be served in large bowls, but little ramekins are best.)