Mousse au chocolat
Don't order it!
Food has this strong capacity to convey memories... And reversely, those memories are a food ingredient by themselves, an important one. Guy Savoy, the famous Parisian chef, tells this story: "People ask me regularly: 'oh, I wonder if your apple pie (for instance) is as good as the one made by my grandmother.' And I invariably answer: 'please, don't order it, mine won't be as good as your grandmother's." And he explains that how good his pie could be (and it should be damn good at his Michelin 3-star restaurant), it won't match all the memories and emotions conveyed by the family dish. Meaning that food is not only a question of taking ingredients and putting them together, and having them taste good... Well, you know what? Cooking is much more than recipes!
A secret in plain sight
My "apple pie", my Proust's madeleine, is my mom's chocolate mousse. I never order a chocolate mousse in a restaurant, and when friends serve me a chocolate mousse, I lie when I say that this the best mousse I ever had. Sorry guys! The chocolate mousse made by my mom when I was a child, and beyond, was simply from another world. As far as I can, I remember my mom making this fabulous mousse. It was both dense and very aerial, rich in chocolate while revealing the subtle notes of coffee or orange rinds she incorporated in it. When an adult and getting into cooking, I asked her several times for her recipe and she consistently and mischievously answered, "oh, it's very simple..." Simple but secret! A very short time before she died, she eventually consented to tell me the recipe, in fact, not exactly. She told me that the recipe was at the back of the chocolate package she was using... She just made a "secret" of a mousse recipe that was in plain sight...
Just after she died, I found one of this chocolate package in her pantry. I kept it with me for a couple of years, without touching it, without daring touching it! Till, after a couple of years, I decided to try to replicate this mousse, following her so visible secret recipe. She had some other tips, but those, I had detected them. Of course (what do you think?), my mousse was not as good as that made by my mom. But I think it was very correct and, more important, I was able to find some of the tastes and to feel some of the emotions I found and felt in my mom's mousse. A great and moving moment that I shared with my wife.
Since this "first" mousse, I have made more, many more. Always like a tribute to my mom. Always not as good, but always good enough to remember the original one... Here is this recipe, a very simple one in fact, my mom was right, with no cream, no added sugar, no nothing, just chocolate and eggs, and a couple of little twists...
|With Timut peppercorns|
- 1 package of 200 g (7 oz) of very good quality semi-sweet baking black chocolate (Callebaut, Guittard, Nestlé Plaistowe...)
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 short espresso cup (ristretto)
- Break the chocolate bars into small pieces, put in a bowl with the espresso, and heat above a bain-marie, stirring regularly till consistently melted. Alternatively, microwaves work too. Go by periods of 30 seconds then.
- Gradually pour the melted chocolate over the egg yolks by mixing vigorously
- Add a pinch of salt in the egg whites and beat them
- Fold the beaten whites by 1/3 into the chocolate mixture, and gently incorporate the whites with a spatula, from bottom to top. DON'T use a whisk and DON'T stir up vigorously.
- When the all the whites are consistently incorporated, spoon into individual ramekins or serving dishes, and refrigerate a couple of hours, at least, until firm.
|With Kumquats and an additional shot of Grand Marnier|
Chocolate mousses are great, unsurprisingly, great with citruses.
So, instead of an espresso, one of my mom's favorite twists, you can add a shot of Cointreau, Grand Marnier, orange blossom water, or simply Cognac, and grate, inside and on top of the mousse, some orange or grapefruit rind. Kumquat work very well too.
Still playing it citrussy, I like to put a few crushed Timut peppercorns that develop a very grapefruity flavor.