Today’s offering to holiday cheer is a double wino whammy: Mulled Wine Mousse, served with pears poached in mulled wine and pomegranate juice. As I recently told you, I’ve been listening to a lot Hanson’s Snowed In, and in their words, this dessert is what Christmas means to me.
Deliciousness and decadence.
The concept of an alcoholic mousse makes me think of technicolor desserts in 1960’s cookbooks, and so I’ve tried to present the finished product here in a similar vein. I personally love affected food photos, whether tinged yellow or pink in hue (or both!). There’s something about those 60’s cookbooks – Dinner in a Dish my companion of choice – it’s as if the photos make for instant food memories. And at Christmas time, there’s nothing better than a food memory or two. Am I right?
Yes. I am right.
Speaking of memories, the masses (aka 1 of you) have been clamoring (aka making one chill request) to see my tasteful holiday decorations. Ask and ye shall receive, gentle readers.
We cut down a beautiful balsam fir found on a woods road a few miles from home. It is strung with some lights, popcorn and cranberry garlands, and eight ornaments – plus an American flag bow as a tree topper. I’ve been making a wood-burned ornament for each of the past few years, and it may come as no surprise that this year’s ornament is a tuberific potato plant. Potato Inspector represent!
The crème de la crème of my holiday decorations is my 6-species wreath, which contains fir, spruce, white cedar, white pine, tamarack, and red osier dogwood. I would like to drown it in liquid plastic and let it live forever on my front door. But I’ll settle for two or three months.
Today, I discovered a hint of scratchy throat syndrome. Since I have a (second!!) job interview on Wednesday, I am not in the mood to get sick, especially right before the holidays. So, this morning finds me sitting on the couch……. with onions in my socks.
Old remedies claim that onions-in-socks can cure just about anything. Colds, the flu, a fever, you name it. Probably hunger, too. The smell is a bit unappetizing.
Anyway, how about some mousse?
Mulled Wine Mousse with Poached Pears
For the poached pears
4-5 pears (I used sweet little Comice pears)
2 c. mulled wine (recipe follows)
2-3 c. pomegranate juice (as needed to cover the pears in the pan)
1-3 tbsp honey, if desired
Peel the pears, leaving the stem. Cut the base to create a flat surface, if needed.
In a small saucepan, bring mulled wine and pomegranate juice to the boil. Add honey, if using. Add pears, fitting them into the pot tightly so that they don’t tip over. If making fewer pears, as I did, there is nothing you can do to stop pears from tipping. In this case, just go with it, occasionally rotating them.
Cover pears with a round of parchment, and a pot lid, if you have one small enough to fit inside the saucepan. I used my smallest pan, so covered the pears with a small plate. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the firmness of the pears. Turn heat off, and allow to remain in the liquid until cool.
For the mousse (inspiration here)
1/2 c. mulled wine (recipe follows)
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar (I assume other sweeteners could work equally well)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp lemon or other citrus zest
1 tsp cinnamon
Put half a dozen ice cubes and a cup or two of water in a large bowl, set aside. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over mulled wine. Let sit for one to two minutes.
In a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine egg yolks and 1/2 c. of sugar. Whisk for several minutes, until mixture becomes thin and pale. Whisk in the gelatin/wine mix, and cook for two to three minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat, and place in the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until mixture has slightly cooled. Remove from ice bath before the mixture chills completely, or it will become too thick to incorporate into the mousse.
Meanwhile, combine cream with remaining 1/2 c. sugar, zest, and cinnamon, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Whip until stiff peaks form. Fold into gelatin mixture, 1/3rd at a time. Set aside, and clean out the electric mixer bowl.
In a cleaned electric mixer bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the bowl of whipped cream and gelatin. Scoop into individual glasses, or a large serving dish, and refrigerate an hour or overnight.
Serve with slices of Mulled Wine Poached Pears, and even with cubes of Mulled Wine Gelatin if you’re feeling frisky.
For one regular-sized bottle of wine
1/2 c. granulated sugar (or 1/2 c. other sweetener, such as honey or agave)
1 bottle red wine
1/2 unpeeled orange or 1 tangerine, cut into sections
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping tbsp mulling spices (allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and mace)
1 tbsp brown sugar
In a large pot, combine sugar with a few splashes of wine. Add orange slices. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for five minutes. Using a spoon or spatula, flatten the orange slices, exuding the juice and releasing the zest.
Add the rest of the wine, the cinnamon stick, and the mulling spices. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to boil or simmer, as this will reduce the alcohol content. Near the end of cooking, add brown sugar to round out the flavors.
Serve immediately, when hot, or use in recipes such as Mulled Wine Mousse, above.