A dish or menu is like a story to a chef. It’s consumed and enjoyed, or not, and probably misunderstood, but as people who spend more time with organic matter and misfits, its a better story than the one about the rude customer or the fake allergy.
The nice thing about these stories is that over the years the bits and pieces accumulate and the task of telling something fresh and new becomes easier because we have a rolodex of plot elements.
I used to forget the stories I wrote, and in re-reading them would often surprise myself. When I started this blog I began documenting the food I made, photographing everything in stages and final presentation, every dish a potential post. Not everything made it, most didn’t because I would be too busy and move on to something else, thinking that my own boredom with that story meant it wasn’t useful to anyone else. Scrolling through the photos I never got around to writing about is like revisiting old stories, a reminder of the experiences I’ve had, the stories I was telling through food.
Given that the call for pastry chefs around here is nil, no beating about the bush, I’m pretty bummed about my ho-hum job, I suppose it can’t all be kitchen fires, cranky Yelpers, and after service beers, this is the first of several archival posts, until I figure out my next tale.
Chocolate, Ginger, Chili
In Calgary I noticed a lot of menus had chocolate and chili. A popular combo, an automatic hit, it made sense. The West happens to have a high percentage of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Also, I imagine, the Wild West was all about the chili and cornbread. And flapjacks.
My first Chef had given me Wild Sweets, a book by a Vancouver couple, trendsetters when it came to unlikely food pairing and use of molecular techniques in the Great White North. I decided to test their candied red pepper and dark chocolate macaron mignardise on a quite Monday and my gears started moving.
Chocolate desserts are an exciting challenge to me, but as a customer I loath them. They can be heavy, rich, overly sweet, and just plain boring. I can’t think of a chocolate dessert I’ve ever ordered that I’ve not regretted. No one challenges chocolate. Chocolate sells, they make something with it, and slap it on a plate.
This dish was the gateway to my no longer working dinner service. I’d put my foot down to 90hr weeks, 12hr days were plenty for me, so Chef hired a girl to help Garde Manger and plate my desserts a few days a week. I had to design something basic, something no experience could handle, but that was still stunning and utterly delightful to the palate.
The chocolate mousse is easy, I lightened it by swapping a whole egg in the mousse and adding more water. This made it more cost effective, every cent counts in a kitchen.
Having a few spare yolks around because of my daily macaron production, I made a ginger-infused bombe mixture for the drippy centre, then popped in a layer of chocolate bark softened with a bit of oil so as to deliver a fudgier texture at once heavily textured with cookie chunks and cocoa nibs, Maldon salt and chili flakes. A simple chocolate sponge gave it something to sit on without overwhelming the other elements.
The plating was reletively easy, the liquid bombe centre provided the adequate sauce (above photo was taken still frozen), so just a sprinkling of cookie crumbs, chocolate curl, and pickled ginger (which I honestly just nicked off garde) was enough.
Chocolate Mousse – makes 4 servings.
2 Yolks, 1 Egg
200g Chocolate, melted and warm
225g Cream, whipped soft and reserved in fridge
Have 4 molds ready, half spheres, rectangles or rounds.
Set a sauce pot on to heat, plop your egg and yolks, sugar and water, into the bowl of a stand mixer, then whisk the mixture to hot, ribbony foam (60C) over the boiling water. Whip with your mixer until cool.
Fold melted chocolate in (should be around 40C at this point), then fold your cream in. This mousse is very soft, so carefully pipe or ladle into your molds. Use a piping bag to fill with a bombe mixture, then press in chocolate bark and a sponge. Freeze fully before unmolding. Glaze and serve room temp.