The Simple Art of Cooking: Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake With Nutella-Fluff And Hazelnut Gelato

On a warm and sunny Monday evening, the bright and airy courtyard of Fresno Restaurant in East Hampton looked every bit an early summer Hampton party, bustling with folks. Only this time the folks were there to swirl, gurgle and sip (and spit), and to take notes on a tasting from a selection of wines assembled by Michael Carr-Smith and Mei Fong’s South Pacific Wines LLC. Several of the wines were later paired with a mouthwatering dinner created by Gretchen Menser, executive chef of Fresno. Menser was a key player in pairing the food and wine, along with Michael and Mei.

Translucent slices of local fluke crudo (raw) served with a colorfully creamy jalapeno mango vinaigrette and micro cilantro green garnish married beautifully with the fruity aromas and sparkle of Crossroads Sauvignon Blanc Pink, Marlborough, to balance the bit of spice in the dressing. Tuscan olive oil and a fresh garlic rub deliciously saturated the crusty grilled bread (crostini) to anchor the rosemary and crushed red pepper-spiced grilled prawns. Here Crossroads Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, rounded the tang of the well-seasoned prawns. We may be in spring’s prime with summer approaching, but our main course, slow braised boneless short ribs with warm and creamy polenta and local apple gremolata infused with fresh grated horseradish and lemon zest, a sweet counter part to the fantastic short ribs, is just too good to give up. Even in the warmer months to come Gretchen promises to keep it on the menu. Two Pinot Noirs, Mana and Crown Range, were poured for this course. Although stylistically different, the versatile Pinots offered a choice from lighter to a richer, more full-bodied wine. Surprises are always fun especially when a Merlot, namely Crossroads, Merlot Hawkes Bay, containing 90% Merlot grape with chocolaty nuances, paired well with the meltingly delicious warm flourless chocolate soufflé cake infused with Nutella and marshmallow fluff and served with hazelnut gelato.

Gretchen was more than generous in sharing the recipes below.


Jalapeno Mango Vinaigrette

The vinaigrette may be used to dress thin slices of sushi-grade fluke or briefly sautéed scallops, poached shrimp, sautéed fluke or flounder.


2 ripe mangoes

1 tablespoon Agave syrup (honey may be substituted)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

4 jalapenos, seeded, deveined and cut into tiny dice

Cilantro or parsley leaf garnish


Peel the mangoes and remove the flesh from the pit. Rough chop the mangoes and place in a blender. Add the agave syrup or honey and rice wine vinegar; blend to purée the mixture thoroughly. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the diced jalapeno. Mixture can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.



Yield: 6 cakes


6 ounces Valrhona Bittersweet Chocolate (or other good-quality bittersweet chocolate)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 ounces unsalted butter

3 large eggs, separated

4 tablespoons sugar, separated

1 jar Nutella

1 jar of marshmallow fluff

1 pint hazelnut gelato


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 4-ounce ramekins generously with Pam.


1. Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder and the butter in a double boiler or a stainless steel bowl, straddling a saucepan with water, creating a double boiler, making sure the water below does not touch the upper bowl. Allow ingredients in upper bowl to melt slowly over low heat. Set aside.


2. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Place yolks in an electric stand mixer fitted with whip or electric hand beater and beat the yolks with 2 tablespoons sugar until light yellow in color, about 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture ribbons. Temper the beaten yolks by slowly whisking them into the cooled melted chocolate and stir to mix.


3. Using the same clean mixer and whip, beat the egg whites for a few seconds until bubbly and add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Divide half the chocolate mixture evenly between the ramekins. Place 1 tablespoon each of Nutella and fluff in the center of each and gently spoon in the remaining chocolate mixture over them. Place ramekins on a sheet pan and bake in preheated oven for 18 minutes. Remove from oven. NOTE: Cakes will deflate as they cool. Invert the cakes onto dessert plates. Serve warm with a scoop of hazelnut gelato or other flavor of your choice.


Visit Silvia’s website at to see her blog and more recipes.

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