Julia's story of how she came to be a cultural phenomenon is unreal. Here is my very condensed synopsis of it. In her mid-thirties, after moving to Paris, she dove head first into French cooking, knowing nothing about cooking. "I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate." She not only mastered it, but she published a <hugely famous> two-part cookbook and became a television icon. Way to conquer your thirties and then some JC. #feelingsuddenlyinadequate
She had the perfect attitude about cooking- if you flub a recipe, do your best to fix it, but if that's not possible, serve your food with a huge smile because there's nothing you can do about it at that point, and that's totally OK. She wanted people to know that mistakes happen, even to the best of us. "One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”
A few other things I personally enjoyed about Julia was that she always had a glass of wine with her while she cooked (I fully support that idea) and...homegirl was TALL. A fellow amazon like me! #tallgirlbond She even brilliantly modified her kitchen by raising up the counter tops so she could cook more comfortably. "Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you're in a crowd, you'll always have some clean air to breathe."
As an ode to Julia, I decided to make her Perfect Chocolate Mousse. I insisted on making it the way she would have made it- without using any electric appliances. That's right, I only used my brute strength. I've gotta admit, I wasn't aware of how much whisking I was getting myself into. This recipe involves several rounds of vigorous whipping. SEVERAL I broke out into a sweat early on and even had to take a few stretching breaks. When the mousse was completed, I felt like a champion...and really bedraggled. I now have even more respect for Julia and anyone who attempts this recipe sans machinery.
This mousse is quite lovely. It's rich and airy with a hint of espresso nestled into the chocolate. As Julia would say, Bon Appétit!
Julia Child’s Perfect Chocolate Mousse
Yield: Six to eight servings
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf) by Julia Child
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Green and Black’s organic 72% chocolate)
6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (60ml) dark-brewed coffee
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (170g), plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) dark rum
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.
2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (If you feel like cheating, you can also use a handheld electric mixer).
3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick. (Pro Tip: Use more ice than water. I didn't and was afraid the water was going to splash into my situation the whole time). Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.
5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.
6. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm. (Can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
7. Serve as is or with a small dollop of whipped cream
I look forward to making more of JC's recipes. Until then, I'll leave you with my two of my favorite quotes of hers. The first, because it's inspiring to me and the second, because it's just plain funny.
"Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."
"I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why? Because I think the chicken likes it – and, more important, I like to give it."