Throughout the southern Caribbean, one of the crops they grow is cocoa.  The cocoa tree produces these big yellow pods about the size and shape of a Nerf football.  Inside them are cocoa beans which, if properly dried, fermented, and ground up will produce cocoa as you would recognize in that brown can in your pantry.  Take cocoa and mix it with sugar and fat in proper proportions and you get chocolate.

     It's an awful lot of steps to get to that final product.  Which is, I suppose why for decades companies like Hershey would buy up boatloads of cocoa beans from where ever and bring them back to a nice big factory where they could do the job and be home for dinner.  But the chocolate industry seems to be changing.  Cocoa growers seem to be taking a cue from the coffee growers who in turn took a cue from the wine industry.  To a refined palate, cocoa grown in one place tastes different than cocoa grown in another.  So a number of region-specific gourmet chocolate bars are starting to be produced.  After all, if say Grenada can convince the world that its cocoa has a special unique flavor unlike anyone else's, then suddenly Grenada cocoa growers might be able to demand a premium above the usual world cocoa commodity price.

     The best part of this trend is that I can imagine some cocoa co-op working REALLY hard to turn out an extremely delicious chocolate bar for this scheme to work.  In Grenada, a chocolate factory has sprung up to make its own organic Grenada chocolate bars and they were fabulous.  We brought back to the states as many of these premium dark chocolate bars as we thought Homeland Security would allow and gave them as gifts to our grateful friends.

    But when we returned to Grenada this month, I couldn't find them anywhere!  Had they sold out?  Did the grand scheme fail?  Fortunately, in a Venezuela market I discovered that their country is doing the same thing.  I loaded up on "Mis Poemas Cinta Azul 75% cocoa hand crafted dark chocolate" bars.  The label assures that it is made in small batches by hand with organic Barlovento cocoa, pure cane sugar, and cocoa butter.  (Those are the only three ingredients, take some notes Hersheys!)  One taste and I had forgotten all about Grenada.

    I had been trying to think of what I could do with this fabulously rich chocolate other than eat it all plain.  Eventually the idea of a chocolate souffle came to me.  It seemed like the perfect way to impress our Thanksgiving guests on board Uliad.  After all, you can make most of it ahead of time, it only takes a couple ingredients, and it sounds really fancy!

   Trouble is, souffle can be troublesome.  Too much motion and it wont rise in the oven.  And did I mention that on a boat there is always motion?   My chocolate souffle came out of the oven looking dark, rich and creamy, but no fluffier than when it went in.  I tried to scoop out a taste but instead of being like cutting into a cloud, it was like taking a scoop of merengue.  What is a dishonest chef to do but rename the dish "Chocolate Mousse" at the last minute, serve it up in small bowls in a pool of lightly whipped cream and the results are too good for anyone to notice the failure.

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

2 oz dark chocolate, cut into pieces

1/3 cup demerada (or light brown or white granulated) sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

    Grease a 9 inch souffle pan (or a tall sided casserole works fine) and dust with sugar, set aside.  Melt butter and stir in flour until blended.  In a separate saucepan, heat milk, chocolate, and sugar until well blended.  Do not boil.  Add hot milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring constantly until well blended.  Separate eggs and add 3 beaten egg yolks to saucepan.  Stir over low heat until slightly thickened.  Cool.

    (This much can be prepared a day ahead of time.  This rich chocolate custard mixture is delicious if you stop here.  The French call it "Pots de Creme" which sounds so elegant that your guests will not realize that it is, in fact, home made pudding.) 

     If you choose to proceed, preheat your oven to 350.  Whip 3 egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add vanilla to custard and stir.  Gently fold the egg whites into the custard.  Spoon into prepared souffle pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until firm.  Serve immediately upon removing from oven.

    And don't rock the oven.