an indulgent ending with chocolate mousse

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Photo: Kevin Pang, Graphics: Rebecca Fassola

This whole week The Takeout Kevin Pang will cook at Anthony Bourdain Les Halles cookbook and write about his experience. Read previous posts on the French onion soup, the Bourguignon bouff, the pork rillettes and the Grenobloise skate wing.


By Anthony Bourdain Private kitchen was published 19 years ago (!!!), a book that reveals the saltier and saltier side of restaurant culture. Four years later, Les Halles cookbook came out, continuing the tradition of exhibiting the industry – only here, Bourdain struck a more practical tone, telling readers how they can apply back-of-the-house techniques to make their home cooking more efficient. (You must remember what the novel would have been like in 2004, before the cooks at home, thanks to Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares appropriate industrial terms, such as "shoot" and "86" outside the restaurant.)

One of the most revealing sections of the cookbook began on page 22, under the deceptively boring heading "General Principles". Here, Bourdain discussed the concept of mise en place (or simply pronounced "meez"), essentially a lesson on the work of preparation, time management and organization. His need is reduced to this: the kitchen is a chaotic place and a head chef is both a pilot and a traffic controller.

There were many pearls of wisdom on these four pages. The most applicable for home cooks was the preparation of the ingredients as if I were in a cooking television program: everything should already be cut, diced, chopped, pre-measured and placed in bowls that you simply have to throw in the pan when you're ready. But it's not just about the process. Bourdain wrote of the "state of calm similar to Zen" that is obtained during the preparation phase: "Putting an old Curtis Mayfield soundtrack on the sound system, working at his own pace. … C & # 39; s something really exceptional in transforming a large pile of raw ingredients into an organized series of useful foods. "

Perhaps the most illuminating intuition for the kitchen neophyte was to consider, if entertaining for a large group, how much you should cook ahead of time. Bourdain wrote: "Always ask yourself: how far can I take this dish? Can I burn the roast, or the breast of the duck, ahead of time? So just have them baked in the oven to finish when the guests arrive "That bearna sauce will hold up in a thermos without poisoning loved ones? Or should I try an emulsion of the last minute under their confused look? Don't giggle."

The intense preparation lesson was announced as I cooked my final dish from Les Halles cookbook this week: chocolate mousse. Of all the recipes I've tried, this was perhaps too light in detail. The pastry chef takes care of volatile ingredients like eggs and chocolate, and therefore has less room for errors. I can see a less experienced cook taking a wrong step and ruining all the domains.

The steps for the chocolate mousse are quite simple: melt the best chocolate you can get, blend in Grand Marnier, butter and egg yolks. Separately, whip the egg whites in soft peaks, gradually bending this mixture into chocolate, then repeat the process with the whipped cream.

There are a number of things you should know that would greatly improve your success. Consider this part of your preparation work:

Photo: Kevin Pang
  • you not you want the boiling water to come into contact with the bowl of the double boiler, because this will burn the chocolate.
  • The instructions of this recipe were somewhat unclear: one could easily assume to remove the chocolate bowl from the double boiler before adding the Grand Marnier, butter and eggs. You should really keep it on the pan of boiling water, because otherwise the Grand Marnier will cool the melted chocolate, making it more difficult to melt in the butter (you will still need butter at room temperature).
  • This recipe included two ounces of Grand Marnier. This is a lot, I warn you, and the end result is quite alcoholic. Proceed at your own risk.
  • In the second phase, just before folding the egg whites, you should make sure that the chocolate mixture is at room temperature. Hot chocolate is the safest way to deflate your swollen egg whites.
  • Do you know this is a great finishing touch for the chocolate mousse? A sprinkling of sea salt or fleur de sel at the top.

As satisfying weeks, this was very stimulating, and certainly involved more butter. I never dived headlong into a kitchen like the one I had made with French bistros in the last five days. Much wisdom has been imparted by Bourdain and his followers Les Halles cookbook – The sheer power of a concise and simple recipe, like French cuisine can be less complicated than your one-week recipes, the fact that awesome sounding dishes are easier to cook than you think, and the thrill of cooking with a torch. To echo a previous feeling, so often we are chasing the new shiny object. Then you reach a certain age and discover the beauty and simple pleasures of the classics. It's not about getting old, it's just getting wiser.

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