Hon Hon oui oui baguette, monsieur et mademoiselle, it is I, Jacque “Le Coq” LeRoque, the famed French correspondent for Kitchen Catastrophe. I have no doubt you all remember me well, as my famed soufflé was the founding principle of the site, an exploration in sorrow through softness. Non? But this cannot be! Surely there is some…zut alors! That fiendish pagan Irishman O’Guin has stolen my fame! I should ‘ave known: when I gave him the keys to the website as I embarked on my 3-year hunt for the elusive zebra truffle, I should have known from his flinty gaze that he would betray me! Eh, bien. The man was in desperate need of some sort of hobby, unmotivated and shiftless as he was. I do not begrudge him his victories. As he appears to have left the keys in the door, I shall simply let myself back in, and return to the world of culinary creation. And I see it is just in time, no? For the Valentine’s Day swiftly approaches, and if you all are as inept at romance as my Irish counterpart, you shall never succeed sexually without my sensual assistance. So, let me provide to you all the secrets to a dessert so soft, so luxurious, and so rich, it will be for your tongue what an Egyptian cotton comforter is for your dog’s bed!
A Man of Wealth and Taste
Mais non, I cannot begin without truly introducing myself! I am, of course, Jacque “Le Coq” LeRoque. I am a former foreign exchange student, who briefly stayed with Jean (as I call your Irish auteur) during his halcyon days of college.
This was back in the 90's, you understand. The 1890's
I have been told that many Americans assume my sobriquet is a reference to the rooster, or, among the more vulgar, a penis. I assure you, neither is correct. Vrai, techniquement it IS a reference to the rooster, but only indirectly. You see, I am nicknamed for the famed French actor and mime Jacque LeCoq, whose name is, technically, “The Rooster”. My parents, as most true French patriots, are great fans of le pantomime, what you call in English “the pantomime”. They are also accomplished accordionists, an instrument I am ever confused has not caught on beyond continental Europe.
I have watched many of your American movies, and have noted a most perplexing trend in your cinema: when you must depict a member of my proud nation in any feature more refined than a barnyard farce, there seems to be three roles we fill: we are despicable cowards, refined but emotionally dead men of high society, or we are some form of incredibly badass criminal. Assassins, bank robbers, rogue programs that are nearly gods in the computer-confined world…you appear to think France has no thieves or butchers, simply bumbling nitwit detectives and seasoned professional murderers. In this you are mistaken, but, if you were to assume I was among the seasoned badasses, you would be…closer than you think.
This may come to some shock to you, but your belovéd O’Guin was not always a clumsy colossus of culinary créativité, no. He has held many positions, from Caretaker of the Elderly, Aggrieved Pet Owner Impersonator, even serving as an Ambassador to Australia for a month. He does not talk of these things, for he is a man of incredible blasé: he has stood unmoved before oncoming traffic, glanced distractedly away from sunrises over natural wonders of the world, and openly mocked armed opponents for lack of entertainment. The man has ice for blood, cold and unmoving. In any case, I met him as one meets all one’s best friends: at gunpoint atop the Sydney Opera House at night.
Honestly, the typical story you've heard a million times before.
You will scarce believe this, but I was serving at the time as a caterer, and, in my efforts to locate the restroom, had become dreadfully misplaced. Also, at this time, through a series of unhappy accidents too implausible to recount, several items of the visiting prima donna’s jewelry had ended up in a sack of tablecloths I was taking to clean. I assure you, I had intended to return the jewels to the correct peoples as soon as I had refound myself in familiar territory. Say, Provence. Startled by a sound, I withdrew a pistol I had brought with me for protection, as I was told the spiders in Australia are of uncommon size and vigor, and wished to remain arachnid-free.
It was there I met the man, in a poorly fitted tuxedo jacket. Our first meeting was, shall we say, strained, and resulted in the jewelry of the fine lady unfortunately lost somewhere near the shores of Darling Point. IN time, we struck up a correspondence, and I came to visit him in America, as a foreign exchange student studying Wine Business Management at WSU, a real degree one can receive!
But I hog the spotlight, as Jean would state. Today is about you, and how I, the great international caterer and Bachelor of Wine Business Jacques LeRoque can save your marriage! Or whatever romantic entanglements you currently possess.
The Mousse is Lousse.
At this point, I must ask the ladies to leave. Oui, madamoiselles, you must give us this time apart. The creation of chocolate mousse is a complicated thing, rife with opportunity for failure, and your beaus must struggle with it in order to prove their devotion is strong and true. If you give us this time, I shall teach them the secrets of the sweet confection, and we shall all profit by it. Take an hour or two, and read your new book, or work out, or whatever hobby holds your fascination. When you return, your men shall be chefs par excellence!
Have they gone? Excellent. Someone give me a cigarette. La femmes, non? Life would truly be a kind of Hell without them. But sometimes, a touch of theatricality is required to…shall we say guide their expectations. For, truly, gentlemen, mousse is as simple as piss. Oh, surely, there are many who tinker with it, cocoa powder here, espresso there, clarified butter and bain maries scattered like so much debris, and I have no doubt that they have successes. But I tell you this, Hervé This, a French chemist and father of Molecular Gastronomy, has a recipe for mousse that is nothing but good chocolate and water!
The absolute madman.
Simplicity is key in this sort of thing. And, while we will not be quite so avant-garde as this Monsieur This, we will be quite near to him. My recipe has but 4 ingredients, takes no more than a half hour of your time, and is even easy to clean up. Remember, monsieurs, it is not in the scale of our deeds that we show our love, but in their intent. A simple love letter can be as valuable to your lady as a diamond ring if created correctly. Just, you know, don’t give her the letter when she’s expecting the ring. That way lies madness.
Anon, we begin. The first step is, in honest truth, the most physically demanding: we must cut-up chocolate. 7 ounces of it. This step has caused me much grief in my time, so let me guide you in it: there is no need to cut the chocolate any thinner than, say, ¼” thick. In fact, you are barely “cutting” at all. If you have a plastic cutting board down, simply hold the knife handle in one hand, and place the heel of your other hand somewhere near the end, and lean into the knife, “pressing it” edge-first into the chocolate. It will skid and slide, but it will cleave the chocolate. Move the blade some fraction of an inch forward, and repeat. If you try this with older, harder chocolate, and using only the handle, this process can take up to a quarter of an hour. With this pressing method, you can do it in maybe 5.
The chocolate is totally unaware of what's to come.
Then we will create a simple double boiler arrangement: if you are unfamiliar, you simply take a pot or saucepan, fill it an inch or two with water, and heat it until it simmers. Then you place a metal or glass bowl covering the mouth of the pan, and heat your food within the bowl. The gentle heat of the steam keeps the food from burning.
This device will hold our melting chocolate, so it now time to move to our second ingredient: and where the first step was the most physically demanding, this step is where we can totally ruin the dish if we are uncareful. We need six eggs, and we must separate them, yolk from white. Where then is the risk? Well, we plan to whip our egg whites into fluffy clouds, a process they will not do if there is yolk within them. As such, gentle control is needed. We must break the eggs, and separate the yolks. There are many tools for this task, but in my opinion, you came with one already, sitting at the end of your arms. (unless, God be praised, he took your hands away. In which case, tools are perfectly acceptable.)
My apologies if you think I am making light of your difficulties.
I assure you, I think this is no...yolk-ing matter.
Yes, as you may know, the yolk is a self-contained ball, with a thin and delicate casing holding it. Simply pouring the opened egg into your hand and slightly wiggling your fingers should be more than enough to remove the majority of the white from the golden orb, which we can then drop into another ramekin or dish until it is needed. Is it a strange experience? Yes. The egg whites are somewhat cold, if, like me, you ignored the initial instruction to let the eggs come to room temperature. They are cloying and thick on the fingers, and at every toss of the hand, you worry the yolk will tear. But this is in the intent, no? You are making this dessert literally by the hand for your love, your gentle touch reaping great reward. Besides, if I know the bedroom at all, strange liquids upon the fingers are no great cost in the pursuits of pleasure. Do not ogle at me like that, you puritanical Yankees! We are men of the world, and we all had the thought!
Risks and Rewards
I will say, to even an experienced set of hands such as mine, we came very near disaster: I am using the eggs laid by Jean’s own hens, in order to better symbolize the idea that love comes from the home, or maybe simply because I am too cheap to go buy eggs. And one of the eggs had a shell firmer in resistance than some plates I have carried. The inner membrane was strong, holding the shell tightly despite its many cracks, and in tearing it, I laid a small cut upon the yolk as well. It was only at the last second that I saw it oozing toward the cracks of my fingers, and snapped them swiftly shut. Had more than a single drop hit the gathered whites, all this work would have been for naught.
Despite the light yellow hue of the bowl on the right, I actually prevented ANY drop from entering it. That's just natural coloring from what the chickens eat.
By this point, your pot of water may be simmering, in which case you can top it with the bowl, reduce the heat to something like medium, and pour your cleft chocolate into the bowl, to slowly melt away. You will want to stir it every now and again, but luckily, the next step with the eggs requires little in the way of hands. Your egg whites should now sit in one of two locations: either a bowl of some size (say, a liter or so) or in the bowl of a stand mixer. For the next step is to whip the egg whites. Which is where our third ingredient comes in: a pinch of salt. Too often you Americans serve your sweets without refinement or mitigation, an outpouring of raw sweetness. This is, in my opinion, a gross misuse of noble chocolate. Chocolate is both sweet AND bitter, and is complemented incredibly well by salt. (In truth, as an aside, salt is even better at cutting bitterness than sugar is, so salted chocolate should seem even SWEETER than unsalted)
As such, a heavy pinch of salt goes in with the egg whites, as they whip on medium speed to form soft peaks. This will take a minute or two, so if you’re using a stand-mixer, you will have some time to organize your counters, or harass Jean’s chickens from the deck. If you are mixing with a hand-tool, then it shall be a time to reflect on your loved ones, and how happy this dish shall make them.
Once the peaks are soft, we add the sugar. I tell you know, this recipe is for a literal quart of chocolate mousse, so you must not be too afraid when I say it uses 5 tablespoons of sugar. That is only a little more than quarter cup, of course!
If, as the English say, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then clearly this is simply preparing for a boatload of antibiotics.
The sugar should be shaken into the whipping egg whites, which are whipped another few minutes, until glossy and tremendously peaked. As I pulled the whisk head from my mixer, the peak stood several inches, like a lonely Grinch-mountain spire of foam over an icy land of Whos. (As a young boy, I was accidentally shipped to an African nation in a crate of donated goods, including Dr Seuss books, so for a time my only companions were in rhyme.)
I do not know if this mousse will enlarge your lover's heart, but it will definitely bulk their arteries a little.
The next step is the ugliest. This is not to say it is difficult, simply somewhat unpleasant to look at. Hopefully your chocolate has melted to a glossy sauce, smooth and shining, over the boiler. If it has not yet, continue to stir it from time to time until it has. Then, remove it from the heat, and stir in your egg yolks. Do this with some urgency, as if the eggs are allowed to sit on the hot glass, they may cook slightly as a separate thing, and then you will have scrambled eggs in your chocolate mousse. I tend to plop the yolks in one at a time, stirring them. This change in heat, and protein-infusion will somewhat “shock” your chocolate, changing its light glossy sheen to something dark, matte, and gritty-looking. It will initially look somewhat unappealing, but by the end should look like fudge batter before baking.
Then, we unite our two halves: brutish dark fudge batter and light and salted bubbles. This is best done, as is all courtship and unification, gradually. Take somewhere around a fourth to a third of the whipped whites, and dump them into the chocolate. Stir them to combine. Gentleness is less necessary here: by intermingling these components, by infusing the chocolate with some of the lightness, we make the next step more likely to succeed. Dump a large portion of the bubbles, or all if you can fit it, into the bowl, and fold the two together.
Soft, shiny, and oh so delicate. Truly, we are in the presence of greatness.
Folding is a gentle process, more like flipping a pancake than whisking the batter. A simple way to think of it is like drawing a capital D in the bowl, over and over again: your spatula sweeps the curve of the bowl around and up, and drops the swept mixture on top, only to start again at the bottom, sweeping up another batch.
This will be a process of several minutes, but in the end, there will be no more streaks of white, though the mixture may have patches of lighter and darker coloring. From here, you simply dump the mixture into either a single large dish, or two smaller ones, and chill it for several hours. Hopefully here you will be wiser than I, and remember that “chill” means to ‘REFRIGERATE”, and NOT “to place in the freezer”, as I have done.
The freezer has tragically already done its deadly work, and the mixture is thick and solid now, so in many ways my mousse is a complete disaster. In others, however, it is still a success. The dish is still one of rich chocolate batter, cooled and ready. I have, in essence, formed a very strange and solid chocolate ice cream. And perhaps this will be enough for your chere, no? For even in our mistakes, we hope, our loved ones support us.
Hopefully this dish keeps you and yours in pleasant enjoyment this holiday season. It is a dessert that can easily serve up to eight people, put together with roughly $7 of ingredients. And when MADE CORRECTLY, is a soft and delightful treat.
Dense, matte, and thick as a brick. Truly, we are in the presence of SOMETHING.
As ever, Jean hungers for money, as he is a man more aimed toward experiences than expenses, so if you wish to aid him in his ongoing pursuits, he has a Patreon you can use to help support him, as Michelangelo was supported once. Failing that, if you have some distaste for the knave, you can spread the story of how he has robbed me of my soufflé recipe far and wide, by sharing it on Facebook, and inviting your friends to like his Facebook page, that they may insult him to his face. Book. If not, c’est la vie.
THURSDAY: JON REVISITS THE CULINARY COMPENDIUM, MOTIVATED BY JACQUES’ MISUNDERSTANDING OF “CHILL”, TO TACKLE THE WINTERY WORDS OF CULINARY COOLING.
MONDAY: YOU KNOW WHAT? JON’S FEELING KINDA TIRED RIGHT NOW, AND SOMEWHAT ATTACKED BY ALL THESE ACCUSATIONS JACQUES IS MAKING. SO MONDAY, WE’RE BARELY GOING TO MAKE ANYTHING. CHINESE TAKE-OUT FROM THE HOME!
Simple (But Not Too Simple) Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6-8 (recipe can be halved)
7 oz chocolate (I prefer either 66% cacao or 72% cacao. Darker chocolates, but not super-dark.)
½ tsp of salt
5 tbsp sugar
1. Chop the chocolate into reasonably small pieces. (they will eventually completely melt in the boiler, but smaller pieces will melt faster) Create a double-boiler system by pouring 1” of water into a saucepan or pot, and setting over medium high heat. Once the water is simmering, top the pot with a glass or metal bowl, and pour the chocolate into the bowl to melt.
2. Separate the eggs, placing the whites directly in to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and placing the yolks into a separate dish. Stir the chocolate if necessary.
3. Add the salt to the egg whites, and whip until soft peaks have formed. Slowly add the sugar, whipping until the whites are glossy and the peaks are stiff.
4. Once the chocolate is fully melted, remove the bowl from the heat, and stir in the egg yolks to combine.
5. Add 1/4 - 1/3 of the egg whites to the chocolate, stirring to combine. Fold in the remaining egg whites, pour the mixture into ramekins or casserole dishes, and REFRIGERATE until set, around 3 hours if in individual ramekins, and up to 6 hours if in a single dish.