Chef News

Christopher Gross' Parnassienne au Chocolate Chocolate Tower

What's better than chocolate? Three kinds of chocolate, of course. Chef Christopher Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge created his often-imitated Parnassienne au Chocolate Chocolate Tower: Nearly half a foot of a dark chocolate lattice over a white chocolate tube that envelops a chocolate mousse center.

Today he shares the recipe for his signature tower -- the same one he shared with Julia Child on her PBS master chef series -- so you can try your hand at chocolatiering at home.

Click through for the three-part recipe: Mousse, lattice, and espresso sauce.

Chocolate Mousse (Serves 8)
What you'll need:
5-½ oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, sliced
¼ cup heavy cream
1-¼ cups egg whites (10 large)
4 Tbsp superfine sugar

What you'll do:
1. Pour two inches of water into a saucepan and bring to a slow simmer. Set a stainless steel bowl on top of the pan, and add the chocolate and the butter. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts; when smooth and lump-free, in about five minutes, remove and let the chocolate cool to room temperature.
2. Pour the cream into the stainless steel bowl set over ice and water. Beat by hand or with a portable beater, whipping in as much air as possible, until stiff peaks form.
3. Beat the egg whites to the soft peak stage; whip in two tablespoons of sugar; continue beating to stiff peaks form gradually adding the reminder of the sugar.
4. Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the cool, melted chocolate, and then gradually add the rest. Fold in the cream quickly, deflating as little as possible.
5. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle 3-½ inches wide by 5 inches long. Form into a cylinder approximately 5 inches tall and 1-½ inches in diameter. Close the side with a piece of sticky tape and make sure that it stands up straight. Repeat to form 8 cylinders.
6. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse and pipe into the tubes, leaving a -½-inch space at the top. Drape the tops of the cylinders with a sheet of plastic and place in the freezer until frozen solid (approximately 1 hour).

What you'll need:
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
6 oz. white chocolate, cut into pieces

What you'll do:
1. For decorating the towers, cut eight 5-inch squares out of parchment paper.
2. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate over low heat.
3. Fill a decorating cone with some of the dark chocolate, and drizzle free form diagonal lines no more than 1/4 inch apart in a lattice pattern across each of the parchment squares. As each square is done, lay flat on one of the baking sheets.
4. When all squares are finished put the sheets in the freezer until the chocolate is set, or about 5 minutes. Reserve the remaining melted chocolate.
5. Melt the white chocolate over low heat.
6. Remove one dark chocolate lattice square from the freezer. And with the offset spatula, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the white chocolate in a very thin layer on top of the lattice, leaving a 1-inch strip uncoated at one side. Scrape off any excess chocolate.
7. Unwrap one frozen mousse tower and lay it on top of the white chocolate, parallel to and opposite the uncoated strip. Quickly wrap the parchment around the mousse, handling as little as possible and being careful to leave the uncoated flap overlapping.
8. Return each finished tower to the freezer, immediately after wrapping in parchment. Repeating steps 6 to 8 until you've latticed all the mousse towers.
9. The papers may be peeled off after five minutes in the freezer, and the chocolate lattice will remain in place around the mousse.
10. Then let the mousse defrost in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Espresso Sauce
What you'll need:
1-½ cups half and half (light cream)
½ fragrant vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
6 egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
1 cup ILLY espresso coffee beans (2 oz.)

What you'll do:
1. Heat the half and half with the vanilla bean, when almost at a simmer remove from the heat and cover the pan.
2. Meanwhile, start beating the egg yolks with the hand held mixer in the pan until thick and lemon-colored.
3. Gradually beat in the sugar, and then slowly blend in the ¼ cup of hot cream to warm the yolks. Blend slowly to minimize air bubbles.
4. Remove the vanilla bean from the remaining cream and blend the cream into the yolk mixture.
5. Pour in the espresso beans and set over low heat, stirring slowly and constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
6. Strain through the fine meshed sieve into a bowl and let cool. Serve warm, tepid or chilled.

Plate the chocolate tower plain or with fruit of your choosing. Then drizzle the espresso sauce over the components as desired.

This is one to bust out for dinner with the in-laws, your boss, a significant other, or anyone else you might be trying to impress. Can't quite nail the presentation? Head over to Christopher's instead.

(This is part three of our Chef Chat with Gross. Check out parts one and two for more about how he made the transition from picky eater to worldly chef and his foie gras battles.)

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Hannah E Williams