Our Valentine’s Day feast at Cooking by the Book offered a menu all from James Peterson’s Glorious French Food. My favorite item was this Chicken Liver Mousse. Rich, soft, luxurious to the mouth, this dish is exceptional.
Peterson’s recipe includes key tips on how to cook those chicken livers so that valuable moisture is not lost. You can’t make mousse from chicken liver leather and the technique here is essential.
As the picture shows, Suzen served this mouse with slices of homemade focaccia adorned with large chunks of salt. That hit of salt was a marvelous addition. Add a glass of something bubbly, and you can have a meal with just this alone. In fact, the next night, with our focaccia supply all gone, we had bagels and mouse. [We still had bubbly!]
Chicken Liver Terrine or Mouse
Terrine Yield: 2 cups, enough for 6 first course servings or 12 hors d’oeuvres
Mouse Yield: 4 cups, enough for 8 first course servings or 14 hors d’oeuvres
A chicken liver terrine or mousse, unlike most terrines and pates, is made by combining raw meats in various ways before baking, a chicken liver terrine is made by pureeing with, butter, chicken livers that have been sautéed in hot oil. To turn the mixture into a mousse, which has a lighter texture than a terrine, you fold it with whipped cream before you chill it. I give the terrine or mousse extra flavor by deglazing the sauté pan with finely chopped shallots and garlic, herbs, and port or Madeira, and incorporating this little sauce into the liver mixture. You can make chicken liver mousse a day or two ahead of time, but unlike terrines that are tightly sealed and will keep for a long time in the refrigerator, chicken liver mousse is somewhat perishable and should be served within a day or two of when you make it. In this recipe, I offer two versions. The first, which is basically a puree of livers and butter, has the relatively dense consistency of a traditional terrine. The second version, made out of the first, has the consistency of mousse because it is lightened with whipped cream.
Ingredients for both terrine and mousse:
- 12 ounces chicken livers (¾ pound ) cleaned of blood vessels and fat
- 2 tablespoons “pure” olive oil
- 2 medium-size shallots, chopped fine
- 1 small clove garlic, chopped fine
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or marjoram, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- ¼ cup port or semidry Madeira, or cream sherry
- 2 tablespoons Cognac, optional
- ½ pound [225 g] butter, plus ¼ pound [115 g] butter I (optional), melted
Additional ingredient for the mousse:
- 1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream, well chilled
Preparation and serving for the terrine:
Rinse and drain the livers and pat them dry. In sauté pan or skillet just large enough to hold the livers in a single layer, heat the olive oil over high heat until it begins to smoke. The pan must be very hot or the livers will release liquid, won’t brown, and will e n d up simmering in their own juices. Season the livers with salt and pepper and lower them, one by one, into the hot skillet—stand back, because chicken livers tend to spatter. Brown the livers for about 3 minutes on each side, until they just begin to feel firm to the touch. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the pan and into a bowl.
Pour the oil out of the pan and discard it. While the pan is still hot, use a wooden spoon to stir in the shallots, garlic, and thyme. Stir the mixture around in the pan for about 1 minute until it releases its fragrance, and pour in the port. Boil the port down to about half, add the Cognac, boil for about 10 seconds, and pour the mixture over the livers. Let the livers cool for 10 minutes.
Cut the butter into about 6 chunks and put these into the bowl with the livers. Let sit for about 15 minutes, allowing the livers to cool further and the butter to soften slightly. Don’t, however, let the butter melt. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth and then work it through a drum sieve or coarse-mesh strainer with the back of a large spoon.
Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
There are several ways to serve this. You can pack the mixture into a bowl, chill it, and pass it at the table for guests to help themselves, or you can use two wet spoons to shape the mixture into egg shapes (quenelles) and put two on each plate. You can also pack the mixture into a terrine lined with blanched leek greens, spinach, or cabbage, chill it, unmold it, and slice it as you would any terrine. Or you can pack it into individual 3-ounce or 4-ounce ramekins, spoon a little more than a tablespoon of melted butter over each one, and chill until the butter sets and forms a seal. Whichever method you use, pass around quartered slices of toasted white bread or pieces of crusty baguette.
Preparation and serving for the mouse:
Prepare the mixture above, but as soon as you it through a strainer, beat the chilled cream to medium peaks and quickly whisk one-fourth of the cream into the liver mixture, which should be at room temperature, not hot. Fold the liver mixture with the rest of the cream and season again to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the mousse with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface of the mousse to keep it from coming into contact with air. Chill the mousse for 3 hours or overnight. You can serve chicken liver mousse in individual ramekins, like the stiffer mixture described above. But don’t spoon melted butter over them; just cover them with plastic wrap until you’re ready to serve. I usually spoon the mousse out in egg shapes, as described above, and arrange two each on individual chilled plates. Chicken liver mousse is too soft to slice like a terrine.
Source: Glorious French Food by James Peterson