July 14 is Bastille Day, a national holiday in France that commemorates the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of Louis XVI’s power and antiquated regime. By storming it, a message was sent—the king’s power needed to go bye bye. It worked, and the event became a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression—the birth of a Republic.
Just like Fourth of July in America, it symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government, and also just like Fourth of July in America, it’s largely celebrated. There is a huge military parade in Paris (the oldest and largest in Europe), and countries like Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, India, New Zealand and South Africa celebrate with street festivals, flea markets, food, wine and fireworks.
I always remember Bastille Day because my dear sweet mother (Monique) and my grandmother (Mona) are from France! My mother was born in St. Raphael, France. She lived there, Trans-En-Provence and many other places, like Morocco, before she came to the United States when she was 11 years old. I spoke with my mom a little bit about her experience there. Most of what she said I already knew, but thought it would be cool to share a little about my family with you.
What’s your favorite French food? Tomates farcies. Tomatoes stuffed with meat and herbs.
What’s your favorite memory of growing up in France? Staying with my grandmother and eating her cooking. She used to take me mushroom picking in the woods. She knew which ones to pick.
If you could go back to France right this second, what’s the first thing you would do? Visit the countryside to see the lavender, farms and greenery. Walk on the beaches.
What do you miss most about France? My family, the beauty of the country and the sea.
What would you tell someone deciding to visit France for the very first time? Visit outside of the cities. Eat at small restaurants because they have the best food. Visit the old sections of the cities—the old buildings, fountains and markets are beautiful, and so are the people.
So there you have it. My mom is awesome. And you probably need to book a trip to France, pronto. Or you could whip up some chocolate mousse, light a sparkler and celebrate from your backyard, wherever you may be.
Creamy Chocolate Mousse Recipe
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled and divided
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup orange liqueur or brandy*
1 pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
6 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
*Tip: Substitute room temperature espresso or strong coffee if you prefer a bolder kick in your mousse.
- In a stand mixer bowl (or a medium mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer), fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream on high until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl, and set aside in the refrigerator. Rinse mixer bowl.
- Fill a small saucepan 1/3 full of water, and bring to a mild boil over medium heat.
- Combine egg yolks, liqueur, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large metal bowl.
- Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water (it shouldn’t touch the water), and cook, whisking constantly, until it lightens in color and thickens, about 1 minute.
- Remove bowl from pan, and immediately add chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside, and allow it to come to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Using a stand or electric hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining tablespoon sugar, and increase speed to high. Beat until firm peaks form.
- Fold egg whites into chocolate, half the batch at a time.
- Fold chilled whipped cream into mixture until just blended.
- Divide mousse among (6) 4-ounce or (4) 8-ounce ramekins (or small teacups!).
- Chill until firm, about 2 hours.
- Before serving, whisk remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream until peaks form, then dollop evenly on the mousse.
Tip: Make the mousse a day ahead. Just cover and keep it chilled, but let it sit out at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.