Did you hear? The Eighties are back. Right outside my very front door, people too young to have experienced the decade the first time around are parading down the sidewalks in leggings and high-top sneakers, shoulder padded blazers, thick belts and inadvisable doses of fluorescent clothing, without a stitch of irony. You couldn’t pay me to join them; I aim only make myself live down each fashion disaster once in a lifetime, but in the kitchen? Oh yes, bring it on.
Out of nowhere this summer (or perhaps out of the thin air of the 36th week of pregnancy), I began craving that 1980s dessert menu standard, chocolate mousse. And I didn’t mean, modernized chocolate mousse, the kind that’s been “rethought” and “renovated” into something delicious, but surely not mousse. I didn’t mean quickie chocolate mousse, which is usually little more than melted chocolate folded with whipped cream, if even that natural. And I sure as heck didn’t mean the chocolate pudding I tried to assuage my tastebuds with, which although really delicious, was no replacement for the decadence of mousse.
No, I wanted the silky, taboo stuff, the kind of “foam” that was a 1980s restaurant standard: Raw eggs. Booze. Whipped cream. Butter. Teased hair. Okay fine, perhaps just the first four, but the first two alone would have been enough to send the Internet crashing through my computer, just to express horror at my raw egg and alcohol consumption while in physical custody of an unborn child. Needless to say, I decided to spare us that drama.
But the baby is out — not just out, but amassing cheeks that will soon need their own zip code — and I am free once again to sully my system in any way I wish. And I chose the eggs. And the brandy. And the whipped cream and butter and I think you should too, at least once, probably twice. Frankly, it might be the least humiliating and most luscious way to entertain an 80s comeback, even if you — whoops! — forget to invite anyone else to the party.
Mousse, previously: Double Layer Chocolate Torte
One year ago: Pink Lady Cake and a Cabbage and Mushroom Galette
Two years ago: Pumpkin Butter, Pepita Granola and Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Three years ago: Pumpkin Muffins and The Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese
Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2009 (sniffle)
Yes, the eggs are raw. And I’ve been doing this long enough that I know someone is soon going to ask me if you can cook the eggs instead of using them raw or use yogurt instead of whipped cream or replace the eggs with flax seeds and water or skip the booze or reduce the butter, and so on, so let me just add this disclaimer: Yes, you may. You may make any changes that you see fit, any adjustments that will make this dish more enjoyable for you. You will, after all, be crafting this for you and not me. And it might be some kind of phenomenal when you’re done, something that exceeds your wildest expectations. But it will not be chocolate mousse.
This is. And I think it is fantastic.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), chopped
3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy (or swap with a liqueur of your choice)
1 cup very cold heavy or whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
Get out one large heatproof, two medium and one small mixing bowl and dust off your electric hand mixer.
Set the large bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and melt the chocolate and butter in it, gently stirring it until smooth. Remove from heat. Alternately, you can melt them in your microwave, stirring thoroughly at 30 seconds and every 15 seconds thereafter until the mixture is smooth.
In the small bowl, beat yolks with your electric mixer until thick enough to form a ribbon that takes a few seconds to dissolve — this will take about two to four minutes to achieve. Whisk yolks into chocolate mixture along with Cognac, then cool to warm.
In one of the medium bowls, beat the cream with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.
In the other medium bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.
Fold the whipped cream and beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, gently but thoroughly. Transfer to 8 (4 ounce) ramekins or one large serving bowl, or go restaurant-style, serving it in stemmed glasses with white or dark chocolate shavings on top.
Do ahead: Mousse can be chilled, its surface covered with parchment paper, up to 2 days, though I’ve never heard of it lasting that long with hungry people named Deb around. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.