I hosted book club last Wednesday night, and we had a big French feast in honor of the book we read, The Paris Wife. I may not have mentioned this, but our book club (now in its third incarnation) has a history of cooking in the style of whatever the subject of the book is. So, when we read The Master and Margarita, it was Russian food. Snow, Turkish. You get the gist.
So, I lucked out with The Paris Wife. It’s the fictional autobiography of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson — sort of the flip side of A Moveable Feast (my all-time favorite book, which has been completely re-edited which I had no idea about* and am really miffed that whoever borrowed my copy of the old version has not returned it so I can do a side-by-side comparison…sorry, had to get that off my chest), although not remotely as good or written by, you know, a genius.
It doesn’t really matter though because we hardly talked about the book; it was just nice to catch up with old friends and have a few glasses of wine and some hearty French fare.
To recap, here’s the menu:
Lillet & soda with a twist of lime
Cheeses: Fourme d’Ambert (a classic mild blue cheese from the Auvergne region) Abbaye de Tamie (a raw cow’s milk cheese; creamy, but with a nutty complex flavor) and Comte (hard cow’s milk cheese made in the Swiss style in honor of the time they spent in Switzerland in the book), Nicoise olives and cornichons
Shaved Fennel, Apple & Parmesan Salad
Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Let’s start with dessert, shall we? It’s my favorite part, especially if it involves chocolate. Chocolate mousse is one of those recipes that has many different versions. Some have butter, some don’t. Some, whipped cream; some not. The recipe I’ve always used is one from my sister’s French teacher (the same lady who bestowed this gift on us), so I’m assuming it’s authentic, well, because she was French. Of course, Julia Child’s recipe is completely different and while she wasn’t French, she certainly was schooled in the art of French cooking (get it? That was a cookbook joke. Cookbook jokes? How sad.).
But this go around, I actually ended up revising the recipe. I used dark chocolate with 70% cacao instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips it calls for. This ended up making things a bit heavier, so I felt rather than just use whipped cream as a garnish, I’d take a page from Julia and mix some into the chocolate mixture to lighten things up a bit. I also should’ve melted the chocolate first instead of just breaking it up and adding the hot espresso mixture to it (with the chips, the heat of the espresso is sufficient to completely melt the chocolate, but that wasn’t the case with the 70%, which left a bit of texture in the mix, which everyone actually liked, but bothered me to no end).
Despite my nitpicking, I will say it tasted great — rich, dense, very chocolatey, but not too sweet. A perfect way to end a perfect night with friends. Can’t wait for the next meal…I mean, book.
Notes: This makes six semi-restrained servings or four big ones, but after the meal we had, semi-restrained was perfect. If you don’t have the creme de cacao, don’t worry. It’s fine without.
6 ounces 70% cacao dark chocolate, melted
1/3 cup very hot espresso (or very strong coffee)
2 tablespoons creme de cacao
4 eggs at room temperature, separated
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Sugar, to taste
In a blender or with a hand mixer, mix chocolate and espresso at high speed for 30 seconds. Add liqueur and yolks. Blend 30 seconds.
In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold chocolate mixture into the egg whites carefully.
In metal bowl, beat the whipping cream until fluffy. Fold most of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup for garnish. To the reserved cream, blend in sugar to taste; cover and refrigerate.
Spoon the mousse into glasses or ramekins. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Serve garnished with remaining whipped cream.
* This new version is not necessarily the “correct” version or Hemingway’s true vision, as it was edited by the grandson of his second wife. Some say it’s been edited to shine a more favorable light on her. Hmm. I’ll still probably read it.