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
During the holiday season, there can be discussions between the partners in a marriage over what to serve at their next dinner party.
“Something chicken,” I began.
“NO.” Suzen was shouting again. Low frustration level. It’s her, not me.
“Cornish Game Hens with stuffing.” My mouth was watering. I like stuffing. I mean I really like stuffing.
“Brian, to serve fowl would be foul. Do you get it?”
“Yes, dear.” I didn’t but I did not want more arguing. And she had a point. After Thanksgiving, after Christmas, poultry is not a good choice. Nor is anything heavy, really. A big slab of steak with mashed potatoes is not appealing. Not even Yorkshire pudding.
The holiday meals have been big and rich. Now is the time for something delicate and light and just as far removed from a chicken as can be.
“Shrimp?” I suggested.
“Good,” she responded.
So off I went. No Googling this time. No, I went to the bookshelf and pulled out volumes twenty years old or more. And in Southwestern Tastes by Ellen Brown I found my solution.
As southwestern food fanatics, we are always up for avocados. Here’s a terrine made with avocado mouse housing sliced avocados and served with cooked shrimp over a red sauce — and you can make that sauce as southwestern and as hot as you like. The recipe for the sauce below is the original. We added some chili powder to put a zing in our mouths.
This dish presents beautifully. Suzen was nervous about the avocado mousse. She was right. Made the day before, the terrine had not set perfectly solid as dinner approached. So, an hour before the meal, we popped the terrine into the freezer then took it out and carefully sliced with a serrated knife. Avocados are tricky buggers and depending on size and ripeness, you may find the terrine a breeze or you may be resorting to some last minute tricks. It’s worth it. Our dinner guests were relieved. No one said “chicken” or “turkey” the whole night.
Given the terrine is made, that green color is going to very muted. It it looks to “Army-like” to you, then I suppose you could resort to green food coloring, but for God’s sake go a drop at a time. Too much color, against the contrast of the red sauce, and people will have visions of some B-grade science fiction movie.
Trust me. I have had green food coloring incidents with Suzen before and they were very vibrant but not pretty.
Avocado and Shrimp Terrine
Yield: serves 8 to 10
For the avocado mousse:
- 8 small ripe avocados [7 to 8 cups of pulp]
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
For the sauce:
- 8 ripe Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the shrimp:
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds fresh medium-sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Line a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper on the sides to cover the top of the mousse. Set aside.
Peel the avocados, sprinkling all cut surfaces with lemon juice. Set aside 2 avocados and cube the remaining 6 n a large mixing bowl. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, remaining lemon juice, and salt and white pepper to taste. Mash well, using an electric mixer or your hands.
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the shipped cream into the avocado mixture, adjust seasoning as needed, and pour half the mixture into the prepared mold. Take the two remaining avocados and halve them. Place them hollow side up in the loaf pan, tap the pan down on a counter to remove any air holes, and fill with the remaining mousse.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, making sure the parchment is directly on the surface of the mousse to prevent discoloration.
To make the sauce, combine the tomatoes, cream, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stew them over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
To cook the shrimp, bring the white wine and water to a boil, seasoning the liquid lightly with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp, and when the liquid returns to a boil, remove it from the heat. Let the shrimp soak in the water for 5 minutes. Removed with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
To serve, unmold the terrine by inverting it onto a platter. Place some of the tomato sauce on each serving plate and place of slice of terrine in the center. Garnish with three shrimp each.
The terrine can be made up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated. The sauce and shrimp can also be made a day ahead. Allow the shrimp to reach room temperature and reheat the sauce slightly before serving.
Source: Southwest Tastes by Ellen Brown