Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mousse au chocolat basque

Last week my cousin and I were talking about different kinds of foods.  To make a long story short, she confided in me that she'd never had French food.  Having lived in France and learned from a very skilled French woman how to cook a variety of things, I was stunned!  How can anyone never have had French cuisine?!? 

Worse yet, how could I not have introduced my family to a cuisine that I love?

Off we went a week later for dinner at a local French restaurant recommended by friends.  We enjoyed a good meal that ended with our sharing of a mousse au chocolat and a lemon tart.

I was disappointed by the mousse au chocolat.  It felt "puny" in my mouth and had no oompf or texture.  Yes, I know that "mousse" means "foam" but I'm used to mousses that are silken and creamy, not airy and meh.

Mousse gets its texture from the air bubbles suspended in a sweet medium.  You can use whipped cream or egg whites when making a mousse au chocolat.  Most recipes I see for mousse use whipped cream, which I don't think provides that unctuous creaminess you want from a mousse.

Here's my favorite recipe for mousse au chocolate, taken from French Cooking: Traditional recipes for the contemporary cook, the first French cookbook I ever bought.  This cookbook deserves a look because the traditional French recipes are expert at showcasing local and seasonal ingredients. 

Turns out that the amount of chocolate is variable depending upon your taste... or memory.  I didn't consult the book before delving in and used just half of the chocolate.  And I forgot the butter.  But a friend at the dinner party said, "I would sell children for this."  High praise.

Use a high quality chocolate because its flavor will be in the limelight.  The recipe scales up easily, just remember this ratio -
1 egg : 2 ounces chocolate = 2 servings

My counter has a slight bullnose on it.  I whip out the pounder thingy and whack the crap out of the chocolate while it's still in the package.  Way easier than chopping it.

I'm submitting this as a Dark Days Challenge recipe because it uses just 3 ingredients: butter, eggs, and chocolate, any 2 of which are easy to get locally.

This rich mousse is silken, dense, and decadent. A little goes a long way, helping to keep portion sizes small.

(Yes, the girls' eggs really are that bright orange!  Booze is all optional.)

6oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp butter
3 eggs, separated, room temperature
(optional) 2 tbsp liqueur of choice

When you separate the eggs, make sure to remove the chalaza, that white squiggly thing attached to the yolk.  You don't want someone who is in the middle of a foodgasm to stop and pull a funky white thing out of their mouth.  Believe me - this happened to me once.  Moussus interruptus is bad mojo.

Break or chop the chocolate and put into a microwaveable bowl with the water.  Zap for 30 seconds, then stir well.  Zap longer if needed to melt but don't burn the chocolate.

Allow to cool slightly then add the butter, egg yolks one at a time, and the optional liqueur.

Beat the egg yolks into submission.  I had to do mine by hand because I got rid of my hand mixer last summer.  Can I count that toward my exercise regime?

Gently... gently... fold the egg whites into the chocolate one third at a time.  Don't try to get an even color throughout: doing so will release too many of the bubbles trapped in the egg whites.

Pour the mousse into your desired vessel(s) and chill overnight.  I did one that was with Grand Marnier and another with the brandy I'd soaked my currants in for the Christmas Stollen.  The original recipe suggests rum and I've also seen people use Chartreuse, which is from the region where I lived.  On a side note, my friend is the head guide for the Chartreuse aging caves.  It's an acquired taste but good once you've acquired it!

I promise you that this will be the best chocolate mousse you've ever had.  I once made it for friends in France and they asked me for the recipe.