On a fine spring morning when people are outside in the garden hunting for Easter eggs, it seems as good a time as any to dedicate a few lines to that most perfect of foods: les œufs.
The challenge with eggs in France is not eating
them – we have no shortage of farm-fresh eggs and specialties ranging from omelettes,
quiches, mousses, meringues and flans – but to spell and pronounce the words
First we must get past that funny little vowel configuration created by the ‘o’ and the ‘e’. When these two characters get overly familiar and become one as in ‘œ’ this is called a ligature and has its own particular sound, somewhere between the two vowels. A bit like the ‘ou’ sound in enough. But it changes slightly depending on what comes after.
Un œuf (uhf) in the singular becomes des
œufs (euh) in the plural. Put like that, it seems easy enough. But for some
reason I’ve always struggled with these words.
For one thing, in French they have a weird similarity to eyes. Un œil (oy) and des yeux (yeuh). Am I imagining this?
Eggs in France are almost always brown in the shell rather than the sterile white I grew up with in North America. They sometimes bear scraps of dirt and feather on the shell, reminding us of their origins. They are date-stamped with either the ‘date de ponte’ (date they were laid) or the ‘date limite de consommation recommandée’ (DCR or use-by date).
I was always nervous about anything involving egg whites. Even separating eggs seemed beyond me, having watched my mother fuss over a metal device which seemed to make the whole process rather complicated.
Then I met my husband. Separate eggs? Nothing simpler. He just broke the egg and poured it into his hand, capturing the yoke in his palm and letting the egg white run into the bowl below. Let me reassure any clean freaks in the audience: he washed his hands before (and after) performing this egg-cellent feat.
Need to beat egg whites to stiff peaks? No problem. He would take a whisk and a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and then bang those babies to attention. It does take a few minutes and a good arm, which probably explains why I could never manage it – having neither patience nor skill.
I’ve retained the egg-separating trick and now have a mixer to do the egg whites. So, without further ado, here is how you make the best damn chocolate mousse ever.
This recipe is supposed to serve six. It reminds me of another one of my mother’s expressions: “What do they mean? Six midgets?” Suffice it to say that if you are of sound of body and healthy of appetite, and have a sweet tooth, it can also serve four.
I was amazed to discover there are only 3 ingredients (although the eggs are used in two ways) and absolutely no cooking involved. All you need is very fresh eggs and good chocolate.
1 tablet of dark chocolate – 200 grams
1 Pinch of salt
Melt chocolate in double boiler or on cooktop at lowest heat, then let cool (Use a microwave if you must – personally I dislike this method)
Separate eggs; retain yolks in a medium glass bowl
Add salt to egg whites and beat until they form stiff peaks
Gradually add cooled melted chocolate into egg yolks, stirring well
Using a spatula, gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture in three batches. Careful not to make the whites fall!
Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
P.S. My deep dark secret is that recipe is not mine: it’s the one on the back of the Nestlé Dessert Noir.
What’s your favorite dessert, homemade or otherwise? Are you a dab hand with a whisk?