Many years ago, when my friend Wendy and I were single moms renavigating a rocky world of dating and relationships, we dreaded Valentineâ€™s Day. It was especially hard on Wendy, who then worked for a major department store.
For her, the first two weeks of February meant a daily assault of material icons that represented nothing more than unfulfilled romantic expectations.
For me, it meant weaving my way through that commercial Cupidâ€™s maze to reach her in her office and then find our way out, psyches unscathed, for say, drinks and dinner.
We cringed at those manikins dressed in lacy pink teddies. We slunk past glittery promises of rings and bracelets displayed on jewelry counters and dodged fragrance purveyorsâ€™ blasts of Beautiful and Eternity.
I called it the holiday that made women unhappy and men wrong.
â€œItâ€™s a set up.â€ I said.
Wendy agreed. â€œI donâ€™t even know what I want,â€ she said. â€œI just know Iâ€™ve never gotten it.â€
Mercifully, wisdom can come with age. I ‘ve long abandoned those consumer-driven notions of romance and know the answer to be simple: Chocolate.
For who, WHO wouldnâ€™t feel happy and right and loved when presented with a sublime mound of chocolate mousse!
Hereâ€™s a basic recipe that Iâ€™ve had forever, and updated slightly: Back in the early â€˜70â€™s, we didnâ€™t know aboutâ€”or have access to—the super bittersweet chocolate; M.F.K. Fisherâ€™s recipe called for semi-sweet.
Yes, thereâ€™s some careful chocolate melting and the call for Egg Magic: studious separating, patient beating, deft folding. Still, it can all be accomplished in thirty minutes. In individual glasses, the mousse chills quickly.
One beauty of the recipe is that if you want other flavor nuances–orange, raspberry, or hazelnut, for instance, it’s no problem to lace them in.
Another is, it makes a lot. Six-to-eight servings. Much better to share the love.
Your Basic Wonderful Chocolate Mousse adapted from The Cooking of Provincial France, by M.F.K.Fisher with editors of Time-Life Books, 1969
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 T. sweet butter, cut into small pieces
3 T. espresso, or strong coffee
1 T. vanilla
2 T. cognac, or brandy
4 farm fresh eggs, separated
¼ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream, lightly sweetened and whipped
In a heavy 1 qt. saucepan under low heat, melt the chocolate and coffee together.
Whisk in the vanilla and brandy. Then, stir in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.
Using an electric mixer with a balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks become really pale yellow and thickened, almost triple in volume. This will take several (at least 5) minutes. The yolks will cling to the whisk.
Check your chocolate mixture; it should be warmâ€”but not hot.
Beat it into the thickened egg yolks; the mixture will seem like chocolate mayonnaise.
Pour this into another large mixing bowl.
Clean and dry your mixer bowl and whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Fold about Â¼ of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites.
Spoon into 6-8 pretty martini glasses (or whatever individual serving pieces you like) and chill for at least 3 hours.
Top with a dollop of whipped cream, garnish with chocolate shavings.