Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Moose, er, Mousse from Jackson Hole

Unlike many folks, I am not a chocoholic. Still, sometimes, you just need it! I became obsessed today with the idea of chocolate mousse, and I had to come home and make some. I used a great recipe from way back in my culinary past, from the days of my only professional kitchen experience. You see, when I was in college, I worked at a ranch in Wyoming. That sounds rough, but it was really the kind of place where rich people went to have a "wilderness experience." I started out just cleaning cabins, but halfway through the summer, they lost both their prep cook and the person in charge of the laundry. I had my pick of those two posts. Guess what I picked? I may have made the wrong choice, as the new laundry gal just hung out watching talk shows and soap operas, ironing napkins all day. Meanwhile, I was up at 5 every morning, running up and down the stairs to the walk-in 800 times a day, chopping pounds and pounds of onions until I was blind from burning tears, ducking pots and pans being thrown by the moody gay chef, and being called a "f#cking b*tch" regularly by the crazy French chef (he meant it with love). Still, I loved it. I loved the hustle and bustle. I loved working with food. I loved feeding the guests three times a day. I loved feeding the staff with my own dishes. I loved learning more about cooking and improving my skills, eventually working my way up to breakfast cook. And I loved working with food professionals, even though they were clearly insane! All except one...a soft-spoken pastry chef named Kris, who strangely enough, ended up marrying and having children with the crazy French chef, Bruno, which I never did understand. In any case, this chocolate mousse was one of Kris' fine recipes, and it remains a treasured culinary souvenir from my time at the Crescent H Ranch in Jackson Hole.

Chocolate Mousse
(Source: Kris Scheibel)

1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons strong coffee (or 3 tablespoons coffee and 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 tablespoons half-n-half
3 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream, beaten until stiff

Dissolve sugar in coffee over medium heat. Set aside. Melt chocolate in double boiler. Whisk in half-n-half and coffee mixture. Cool.

Fold half of chocolate mixture into beaten egg whites, then fold that into the rest of the chocolate. Be gentle! Fold in the whipped cream. Spoon into glasses and chill at least four hours.

*Note: This is not the richest or densest of mousses, as it involves no yolks, and does not begin with a cooked custard. This is more of the lighter, frothier (egg white) ilk. But it's still darn good.

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