Last night, I cooked Nick a special birthday dinner. Well…belated, seeing that his birthday is December 29th. In my defense, he was still at home on Christmas break on his actual birthday, and this is the first opportunity we have had to celebrate.
Anyway, while planning my meal, my friend Sabrina gave me a great idea to cook an “Around the World” dinner. 3 courses, 3 different countries. I immediately decided on the European culinary trifecta- Italy, Spain and France. An antipasti platter of Italian breadsticks, marinated mozzarella and Chianti Salami would be the first course. For the main dish, I knew I wanted to make José Andrés’ Rossejat, a pasta-based seafood Paella that we had eaten (and LOVED) at his DC tapas restaurant Jaleo.
And then came the most important course of all…dessert. Anyone who knows me is aware of my deep-seeded, intense love of desserts. Cookies, pies, tarts..you name it, I love it. And, if there is anything that rivals my love of sugary treats, it’s France. I studied abroad there during college, and have been obsessed every since. So, when matching which course would be from which country, it was obvious to me that dessert would be French.
Nick has never been to France and hasn’t eaten a ton of French food, so there was a lot of pressure riding on what I decided to make. Okay there was literally no pressure but I wanted to choose the perfect dessert to represent my two great loves– but what? I started racking my brain of my time in France, searching for inspiration. The answer came to me almost immediately. Chocolate mousse.
While I was studying abroad, my host parents cooked me dinner once a week. These dinners consisted of my host mom insisting that I take seconds..thirds…fourths…of every course, as she was on a “régime” and only ate cantaloupe for every meal. Ah, the good ole days. One of my very first dinners, my host mom made chocolate mousse for dessert. Up to this point, I considered mousse to be very sweet and thick– almost pudding-like. This, however, was completely different. This was airy, light and only subtly sweet. It was amazing. In a very un-French way, I scarfed down that mousse like it was my last meal on earth. When I finally came up for air with what I am sure were chocolate covered lips, I asked how she had made this amazing mousse. Excited to see how much I loved this dish, she was even MORE excited to tell me how simple it was to make. 3 simple ingredients and just a few short steps, and anyone can make this, decadent perfect French chocolate mousse.
As I thought back on this fond memory, I was confidant that chocolate mousse was the perfect French dessert for Nick. It represents everything I love about French cooking- simple, rich, rustic. I wanted my chocolate mousse to be as similar as possible to my host mom’s, and was initially stressed I would not be able to find the perfect recipe. However, I luckily received David Lebovitz’s “The Sweet Life in Paris” for Christmas, which contains the perfect recipe for classic French Chocolate Mousse.
- 7 ounces (200 g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
- Pinch of course sea salt
- Fill medium-sized pot with water. Bring to a simmer.
- Place finely chopped chocolate and vanilla extract in a glass or metal bowl. Place on top of simmering water. Stir occasionally, making sure not to let it get too hot. Once melted, take off heat. Stir until smooth.
- Separate the eggs into two clean, dry bowls.
- Whip egg whites and salt with a mixer. They are ready once they form stiff peaks when you lift the beaters.
- Add the egg yolks to the melted chocolate. Be sure to stir quickly so as to prevent the eggs from cooking.
- Fold one third of the egg white mixture into the chocolate until fully incorporated.
- Fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate until no white remains.
- Pour into 4 ramekins and cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.