14 July 2014


Happy Bastille Day, y'all.  Actually, the French never seem to say "happy" Bastille Day. In fact, they are much more happy with la Fête Nationale on a calendarOr simply saying today is le 14 juillet.  Truth is we Americans seem much more happy about it than the French. 

Alas, we are in West Virginia but if we were in New York City, (or now, in Paris ) we would be at Buvette right now.  Since we are here not there, we thought Buvette would be the very best cookbook for today.  By her own admission, Jody Williams is a self-taught cook and a bit on the intuitive side.  Those are the cooks we love.  A cook that can tell us about a dish and we can cook it, no amounts or ingredients lists needed. Of course, in today's market, such a cookbook would be an impossibility. But we like to walk into the kitchen thinking it is the way to go.

Williams is known for her careful sourcing of eclectic, vintage items that she uses in decorating the restaurant and many of those items make their way into the photographs in the book.  The team of Gentl & Hyers did the photos.  They are known for making the most mundane objects look as though they were painted by Dutch masters. 

If there is a problem with this book, it is that every time you turn a page w you want to eat what is on the page.  One might actually starve trying to decide just what to make.  Did we mention we are wishing we were in NYC right this minute?  

The book has its fair share of French classics, but if there is one dish that Buvette is known for, it is the Mousse au Chocolat.  Williams has shared the recipe and made the mousse on television on numerous occasions.  In keeping with her self-taught aesthetic, Williams has offered up the recipe in various fashions.  The most disconcerting was a recipe that offered up the whipped cream as "optional."  Not a chance.  Here, now, is the definitive recipe.

Mousse au Chocolat

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks)  unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 pound (8 ounces) semisweet chocolate,roughly chopped
1 tablespoon water
3 large eggs, separated, plus additional egg white
Pinch coarse salt
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Crème fraîche or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Put the butter and chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl along with a spoonful of water and set over a small pot of barely simmering water.  Stir until completely melted.  Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the 3  egg yolks together in a large mixing bowl with the salt.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the 4 egg whites in a large mixing bowl, or into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the yolks, one-third at a time, into the chocolate mixture, making sure each addition is completely combined before adding the next.  Don't be tempted to add the egg yolks all at once  -- adding in batches will help regulate the temperature of the egg yolks and keep them smooth and uniform.

Next, carefully fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being as gentle and careful as possible so as not to lose any of the volume you have worked so hard to create in the egg whites.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days in advance.

Scoop the mousse, which will have become a striking combination of fluffy and dense, into serving bowls and serve with crème fraîche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

While the French love to open their restaurants in America, few Americans load up their French restaurants and open them in Paris.  Really, who doesn't just love Jody Williams.   With Buvette, any day is a happy one.

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