A Little French Birthday

Much to my chagrin I spent both Thanksgiving and my birthday tucked up in bed, swathed in blankets as I sipped tea, watched old movies and tried to feel better.

I was very sad to miss out on all the festivities, so it was doubly special when my lovely friends in the CEG (Culinary Experimentation Group) made up for it with a fantastic French birthday dinner. :-)

Amy and Don brought French red wine and Toby assembled crackers and brie to tide us over while we cooked.

Kat and I tackled Gourmet's Lemon Zucchini Vichyssoise (more on that tomorrow!) and I attempted a sharp cheese sauce with a particularly stinky cheese a new friend in France sent home with me. 

Toby stirred while I followed the recipe to the letter. In spite of our best efforts we ended up with an amazingly awful French glue that stuck to teeth and gums and wouldn't come off without much prying. :-)

On the bright side, we managed not to ruin the arugula and tomato salad, a simple little dish with a lively dill and lime vinaigrette.

Deborah and Kat made a lovely stove-top ratatouille with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and onion, and Cameron smoked gorgeous scallops with his own savory blend of spices.

The grand finale was Darren's marvelously rich chocolate mousse with rum and espresso. Yowsers!!

It was a perfectly wonderful birthday! Thank you, dear friends! :-)

Chocolate Mousse
(adapted from Simply Recipes)


4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons espresso or very strong coffee
1 cup cold heavy cream
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar


Whip the cream to soft peaks, then refrigerate.

Combine the chocolate, butter, and espresso in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not simmering, water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool until the chocolate is just slightly warmer than body temperature. To test, dab some chocolate on your bottom lip. It should feel warm. If it is too cool, the mixture will seize when the other ingredients are added.

Once the melted chocolate has cooled slightly, whip the egg whites in a medium bowl until they are foamy and beginning to hold a shape. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

When the chocolate has reached the proper temperature, stir in the yolks. Gently stir in about one-third of the whipped cream. Fold in half the whites just until incorporated, then fold in the remaining whites, and finally the remaining whipped cream.

Spoon or pipe the mousse into a serving bowl or individual dishes. If you wish, layer in fresh strawberries and top with extra whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (The mousse can be refrigerated for up to a day.)

Serves 5-8, depending on the size of the servings.


  1. You had a lovely dinner. You must be a great friend to have.

    Love the mousse.

  2. You had me at chocolate mousse... everything looks delicious!

  3. Thank you, Chaya! :-) It meant so much to me. :-)

  4. Thank you, El! It was a such a lovely evening :-)

  5. i'm so sorry to hear that you were so sick, but i'm glad you were able to rebound for that magnificent dinner by such lovely friends! i'm now completely craving some of those scallops.

  6. Oh my! Those scallops look ammmmmazing!

  7. Thanks, Allison - I'm feeling heaps better now. Nothing like being loved on by dear friends to perk you right up again. :-)

  8. I agree, Duchess! Cameron is the meat-smokin' Master!!