Last Thursday, Amanda and I enjoyed an atypically fabulous day of back-to-back meetings that included lunch at Pastis, a chic brasserie in downtown Manhattan. We both chose prudently for the first half of the meal (Amanda ordered a beet salad, and I had an herb omelet), but when it was time for dessert, the urge struck me with a vengeance: I wanted the deepest, darkest chocolate thing I could get my hands on. I don’t often order chocolate mousse, and I was a little afraid Pastis's version would be creamier and lighter than what I was craving. But just a few minutes after I ordered it, I was totally delighted when the waiter set down a small dish of what was perhaps the densest, most intense-looking chocolate mousse I’d ever seen. It looked like a scoop of bittersweet chocolate sorbet, only fluffier.
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The mousse reminded me of a recipe given to me by the pastry chef at Anthos, an excellent Greek restaurant here in New York, for a piece I wrote for the Times. It couldn’t be simpler to make, but the results are spectacular -- you use nothing but good quality dark chocolate, a little milk and some heavy cream, ending up with essentially a whipped ganache.
Back when I used to make chocolate mousse a lot for dinner parties and catering gigs, I often folded in a splash of Cointreau and some chocolate shards, which I thought gave it some extra oomph. Last week’s experience renewed my enthusiasm for this decadent dessert, so I decided to revisit the Anthos recipe, adding my signature twist. I hope you enjoy it!
Chocolate Mousse with Grand Marnier and Chocolate Shards
Adapted from Anthos
10.5 oz. good quality semisweet chocolate (Valhrona, etc.)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Roughly chop 7.5 oz. of the chocolate and put it into a medium, heavy saucepan. Refrigerate the rest of the chocolate until you're ready to use it. Add the milk and salt to the saucepan and gently heat the mixture until the chocolate melts, whisking until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, grate the cold chocolate so that you have coarse shards and return them to the fridge in a small bowl. Stir the Grand Marnier into the chocolate mixture, combining thoroughly. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks, and then gently fold in the cooled chocolate and the chocolate shards, just until combined. Spoon the mousse into 8 individual cups or glasses and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until set. Serve with a sip of Cointreau or Grand Marnier on the side if you like.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).