February 7, 2017

Chocolate Mousse

PSA to all y'all clueless guys out there looking to woo your lady friends and significant others: Valentine's Day is only a week away! That's just enough time for my discussion crush to confess their love for me before I start shopping for cats, but that's irrelevant. All you need to worry about is crafting the perfect Valentine's Day menu, and I got you covered. I know Valentine's Day is on a weekday, but these sticky buns can be made the night before and baked first thing in the morning for a sweet start to the day. For dinner, it's hard to beat a big plate of Italian-style chicken, especially when it's ready in 30 minutes. This Tuscan chicken is sure to please, and it goes perfectly with a slice of zucchini ricotta tart.

Of course, the most important part of any meal is dessert, and chocolate mousse is a classic. I dressed up my basic recipe by layering it with a fresh strawberry compote, but you can serve it plain or with anything else you'd normally pair with chocolate. Peanut butter, other fresh fruits (cherries, bananas, or other berries), and caramel would all kick this recipe up a notch. I threw in some crushed up chocolate cookies for texture, too. You can layer it parfait-style like I did in the pictures or just drizzle it on top of whatever vessel you serve the mousse out of. No shame if you eat it straight out of the bowl.

There's a few ways people like to make chocolate mousse. Some take shortcuts by folding chocolate into whipped cream, but that's not as decadent as what I want in mousse and it tends to fall more quickly. Egg yolks solve these problems, but it's really easy to cook them and end up with clumps of cooked egg. Romantic, right? I reduce the risk of overcooking the eggs by mixing them with sugar and cream, keeping the mixture on a low heat, stirring constantly, and straining out any cooked bits at the end. I also add a splash of rum to add notes of flavor that add to complexity but aren't quite so obvious; you can swap in your favorite alcohol or one that pairs better with whatever you serve the mousse with. That custardy mixture gets combined with chocolate, which is already melted to speed up the process. Once cool, the now chocolate custard is folded into whipped cream to make it light and airy but still rich and decadent.

My biggest piece of advice for making this chocolate mousse is to use good chocolate. Don't make your girlfriend or boyfriend eat crappy chocolate for Valentine's Day. Take that bag of cheap Nestle/generic chips and throw it out the window (or just bake it into something like tollhouse pie). You have to use good chocolate here because you know what this mousse tastes like? Chocolate. Whatever your chocolate tastes like, that's what your mousse will taste like, only amplified by 10 because you have higher expectations. It's like cooking with wine; if you wouldn't drink it (or eat it in this case), don't cook with it. Beyond that, I'd say be careful when cooking with your eggs and whipping your cream because going too far will give you scrambled eggs and butter, which are delicious for breakfast but not when you're one course away from not screwing up Valentine's Day. Now go find yourself a date and make this mousse.

4 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Cream
1 T Rum
1 tsp Vanilla
8oz Chocolate, Melted

Whisk the yolks, sugar, 3/4 cup cream, rum, and vanilla together in a medium pot. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain into the melted chocolate, whisk until smooth, and chill until cool.

Beat the remaining cream until stiff. Gently fold a third of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining cream. Spoon into dishes and chill, along with the strawberry compote below if desired.

Strawberry Compote:
Combine 3 cups strawberries, 1 T Grand Marnier, 1/4 cup sugar (adding more or less to taste), and 2 T water in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the strawberries are soft and the juices have thickened.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

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