My Inner Andy Rooney

Chocolate Mousse

thuuuurrrpp!

I have a theory: if you’ve lived in your home for more than five years, chances are your kitchen and closets have become the house wares equivalent of an archeological dig. The other day I decided that I needed to sort through a few things in my kitchen. That’s my euphemism for “it was a mess and I needed to get rid of stuff.”

I should preface this by explaining that–ice cream maker aside–I never think of myself as a gadget person. I don’t even have a microwave oven, although that has as much to do with being unwilling to surrender counter space as it has to do with function. I know me: I would never cook with the thing and would likely use it for storage. (Like my regular oven, which my sheet pans call home.)

I have a Kitchen Aid mixer–universally accepted as indispensible for bakers–two good sauté pans, two cheap but sturdy saucepans, a rolling pin that could double as a self defense tool, and a huge number of cookie cutters. (Cookie cutters don’t count.) I don’t even have an electric coffee maker or toaster.

Therefore, it was eye opening to “sort through a few things” and find gadgets that I must at one time have considered vital, but that now seem — and this is me being polite — extraneous. Case in point: I have an immersion blender. Please tell me why. I cannot remember the last time I used it or what I made with it. On the other hand the box says it is ideal for making creamy soups right in the pot. Hmmm. I think I’ll hold onto it. For now. Just in case I decide to make creamy soups.

I tossed a coffee grinder. It worked fine, but reeked of some flavored coffee that I can’t seem to stomach. Word of caution about coffee grinders: one mistake and they’re toast. Yeah, I know “they” say you can use them to grind spices, but once you’ve done so they wear their musk like a scarlet letter and their coffee days are history.

I have a rice cooker which I actually do use…once a year. But I have an excuse: I inherited it from a friend who was moving. It’s a keeper. Hey, I may want to make sushi. It could happen.

I have two vegetable peelers. One is made by OXO and I use it frequently for everything from cheese to chocolate, and yes, vegetables. The other peeler I bought from Joseph Ades, New York’s best known street peddler (he was profiled in Vanity Fair ),who was selling them on the street one day. You could say I got caught up in the glamour of that peeler. I use the OXO because it is more comfortable.

Then I came across my old whipped cream dispenser — the kind that you charge with little cylinders of gas. I’m sure I bought this during a long ago foray into the land of the Atkins diet. And not unlike rummaging through an old garage and finding a classic MG roadster hiding under a tarp, I couldn’t resist taking the old girl out for a spin.

She still foamed beautifully, and the roar of her nozzle as she spat out whipped cream was still impressive, so I couldn’t help but wonder if the old gal had some life — and relevance– left in her yet. Is there life after whipped cream? If you follow the intense world of molecular gastronomy, and talented guys like José Andrés and Ferran Adrià then the answer is yes. If you are a home cook like me then the answer is maybe.

As much as I would like to publish a recipe for Asparagus Espuma, I’m afraid my work was much more prosaic: I made Chocolate Mousse. Sounds good, yes? What a dumb idea.

I followed a recipe that I found on line that was created by isi, the manufacturer of the whipped cream canister. The ingredients are fairly straightforward, heavy cream, instant coffee granules, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla or your preferred alcoholic addition. Here’s my first complaint: this isn’t Chocolate Mousse, this is chocolate flavored whipped cream.

Here’s my second complaint: it didn’t work. Lots of gas rushed out, but not much mousse. Clearly the mousse was too heavy for the gas. I’m happy to report that the mousse that did come out was good. It had a nice chocolate / coffee bite, and quite a bit of the little bubbles that are usually featured in mousse courtesy of whipped egg whites. But after the mousse stopped the rush of the gas sounded more like the canister was giving me “the raspberry.” While I avoided taking its comment personally, I’ll admit I prefer it when my utensils keep their opinions of me to themselves.

If at first you don’t succeed, use the rest of the heavy cream to try again. My second attempt was better, and yielded more mousse, but featured the same unfortunate comment coda by the canister, which, as a bonus, spat some mousse at me when I opened it for cleaning. Clearly this canister missed its calling and would have been much more at home on the set of “I Love Lucy.”

Alas, the true problem lies with the operator of the canister, not the canister itself (surprise!). I was using heavy cream, which (in the Northeast) weighs in with an average of 40+% butterfat. I should have used Whipping Cream (duh!) which weighs in with an average 36% to 40% butterfat. This would have produced a lighter cream which the gas would likely have been able to push with greater success.

In the meantime, I think I’ll stick to making Chocolate Mousse the old fashioned way: with my MousseMaster 5000!

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