Leslie Budewitz. Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, debuts from Berkley Prime Crime today. The series is set in a small, lakeside resort community in Northwest Montana, on the road to Glacier Park, near where author Leslie Budewitz lives. Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, and was nominated for the Anthony and Macavity awards. Visit her at www.LeslieBudewitz.com
HU-HUCKLE, BU-BUCKLE, HUCKLEBERRY MOUSSE
The most popular woman in Paris is probably the young woman who carries the giant wooden bowl of chocolate mousse among the tables at Chez Janou, a delightful corner bistro in the 4th Arrondissement. With dark chocolate skin and a smile as bright as the lights on the Eiffel Tower, she dispenses huge spoonfuls of thick, rich mousse. If the look on a diner’s face says “more,” she happily obliges.
When we returned from our first trip to Paris, I searched on line for Chez Janou’s chocolate mousse recipe. Alas, all I found were raves, with notes that Janou and her staff repeatedly refused to divulge it—and a hint that it resembled Julia Child’s classic recipe.
Voila! ‘Tis the same, or darned close. To me, it evokes the taste of the perfect evening in Paris with my hunny.
So what’s the taste of the perfect evening in Montana? Well, to Erin Murphy, the protagonist of my new series, The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, it’s Huckleberry Chocolate Mousse served at Chez Max.
If Montana had an official fruit, it would be the huckleberry, a wild mountain relative of the blueberry. Yes, other states claim them, too—Idaho, Wyoming, Maine. But ours are the Real Thing. I know, because the last time I went picking, in the mountains above town known as the Jewel Basin, I was happily filling my little bucket with the deep purple jewels when the sounds of leaves and fruit being torn from branches told me a bear had the same idea. And if a bear wants something, you know it’s good—and you let her have it!
The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries are set in a small town in NW Montana where good food reigns supreme. Erin Murphy runs a specialty regional foods market, known as the Merc, and right next door are Le Panier, the bakery, and Chez Max, a bistro, run by Max and Wendy Fontaine. Wendy’s a local girl, but Max hails from Provence. His bistro bears a resemblance to Chez Janou, and to Bistrot áa Vins in Arles. But it’s got a flavor all its own—call it Montana, with a French accent.
CHEZ MAX’S HUCKLEBERRY CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons huckleberry syrup
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1-/12 teaspoons sugar
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, in the microwave, or in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the huckleberry syrup. Transfer to a bowl large enough for all the ingredients.
Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate, one at a time.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until they start to form peaks. (A stand mixer is perfect, if you have one.) Continue to beat and gradually add the sugar. Beat until the whites are shiny and hold medium-firm peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, spoon about a quarter of the whites into the chocolate and fold until almost smooth. (This lightens the chocolate and makes it easier to blend in the rest.) Spoon the rest of the whites into the chocolate and fold in carefully. Don’t overwork the mixture—you want to leave the bubbles in the mousse for lightness, and streaks are fine.
Spoon mousse into individual serving dishes and chill, covered. Garnish with whipped cream, mint, and huckleberries, if you’d like—and if you’re lucky enough to snare a few from the bear. Or if you’re feeling like the jeune fille Chez Janou, leave it in the bowl and serve your guests tableside.
(The Wild Huckleberry syrups and preserves from Eva Gates, in Bigfork, Montana—the model for Jewel Bay, are particularly tasty. www.evagates.com )