A Valentine Dessert From The Heart
Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, is my absolute favorite chef. When you make a Barefoot Contessa recipe you know it is going to be good. Plus, this one has the three elements I look for in a recipe: (1) worth the effort; (2) can be made ahead or made so you aren’t spending all your time in the kitchen away from your guests; and (3) not too complicated or expensive.
When I first started cooking, I tried a scallop recipe from Martha Stewart (remember the Tiffany blue cookbook from the 80s?). To this day, if you ask Tom what the worse recipe I ever made, he says it was the scallops. The recipe was very expensive (I think the jumbo scallops cost something like $30), took forever to make and all the ingredients sucked. As you may recall, Martha likes to make everything from scratch. Who has time? If it comes frozen or even in a can AND is good, then I’m in!
In her Barefoot in Paris cookbook (my favorite!), Ina recounts a very funny story about her husband. They were dining in Paris and ordered chocolate mousse for dessert. It was brought to the table in an enormous bowl, which her husband thought was just for him. He did not realize the mousse is served family style at many Paris bistros. Fortunately, I had read Ina’s story, so I knew when we ordered chocolate mousse in Paris what to expect when that big bowl was put down at our table. Our server placed a big wooden spoon into the mousse and said we could eat as much as we wanted…just not out of the bowl (I’m pretty sure she was looking at Tom when she said that).
6 oz. good semisweet chocolate, chopped (Ghirardelli is good)
2 oz. good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ c. Grand Marnier liqueur
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. grated orange zest (I use the zest from an entire orange, preferably a sweet one, like a Cara Cara)
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 extra-large eggs, at room temperature, separated
½ c. plus 2 T. sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
½ c. cold heavy cream
Combine the two chocolates, Grand Marnier, ¼ c. water, and the vanilla in a heat-proof bowl. Set it over a pan of simmering water just until the chocolate melts. Cool completely to room temperature. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined.
Place the egg yolks and ½ c. of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (my regular hand-held mixer works just fine). Beat on high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick and pale yellow. With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate mixture. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place 1 c. of egg whites (save or discard the rest), the salt, and 1 T. of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (again, my hand-held mixer worked find). Beat on high speed until firm but not dry. Whisk half of the eggs whites into the chocolate mixture; then fold the rest in carefully with a rubber spatula.
Without cleaning the bowl or whisk, whip the heavy cream and the remaining tablespoon of sugar until firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into individual dishes or an 8 cup serving bowl. Chill before serving.
Ina garnishes her recipe with whipped cream and Mandarin oranges, but I think it is exceptional all by itself. Smile and enjoy.
Serves 6 to 8 large servings (very large)