Monday, January 2, 2012

Chicken Liver Mousse

Cleaned chicken livers
Do you like chicken liver mousse? I know that I adore it. For all manner of special occasions growing up, my mom would make an amazing chopped liver pate. And I'll admit that until I reached adulthood, I thought the stuff looked a little like poo, and smelled mighty funny. But adulthood hits you like a ton of bricks, and suddenly all the foods that looked nasty start to open worlds. Chicken livers are a gateway food, in a sense.
So unlike my mom's liver mousse, and more like the fancy pates that I'd enjoyed up in Montreal, etc. I found a great recipe by way of epicurious, had about a pound of the most wonderful chicken livers, purchased from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds and frozen back in the summer, and swooped into my local green grocer, Milk and Honey in Salem, MA, for the other minimal ingredients. That's really the beauty of this recipe. The prep and the ingredient list are both short and simple.
To start out for the mousse, you'll need:
1 pound chicken livers, cleaned
4 cups milk, divided
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1) Prepping the livers. Take the time to clean your livers, ensuring that they don't have any amiss sinew and such. Next, soak your chicken livers in a couple cups of milk. Cover and chill in the fridge for two hours. Then drain the milk, and add another two cups to soak for a couple more hours. After this is done, go ahead and give your livers a good rinse, and dry with paper towels. 
Saute thyme and shallots,
then add chicken livers
2) Cooking. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a frying pan, add the thyme and diced shallots, and cook on low heat until the shallots are nice and soft. When they reach this point, you can add your livers, turn up the heat to medium, and cook until still a little pink in the middle. I cooked a little less than the recipe specified, about three minutes, but it's really up to you, and how much you trust the quality of your offal. Now remove from heat, add the Calvados, return back to heat and let the alcohol reduce a bit, by about half. Remove the thyme. 
Ready to add butter in
the food processor
3) Get ready to butter. Throw your liver/shallot mixture into a food processor. Process until smooth, and then while the machine is running, add your sh*t ton of softened butter little by little. When all the butter is incorporated, turn the machine off, and strain the mixture through a mesh strainer. 
4) Chill. You're going to need to distribute the liver mixture into containers, and I like little glass jars. Then they need to be covered with plastic wrap, and left to firm up in the fridge for about one to two hours.
After the gelee has set, ready for tasting
5) Gelee! After your livers have firmed up nicely, put a quarter cup of water into a microwave safe container, and add 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. Throw it into the nuker for about thirty seconds on high, just enough to dissolve the gelatin. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Now add about 3/4 of a cup of sweet Riesling and stir that in. Spoon the mixture gently into each of the liver mousse jars so that there's about a quarter inch layer in each jar (you'll probably have some left over - jello shooters for you). Now add a tiny sprig of thyme to each, cover, and they're ready for the fridge. All said and done, they take about an hour for the gelatin to set. 
Liver mousse with riesling gelee
And there you have it! Literally, these are among the prettiest things that I've ever made. And it was really easy. But looks aside, this is a hell of a pate. Best after being left to warm up just a bit at room temperature, the liver mousse is rich and savory. It's creamy, and saturated with all those good things in life, AKA butter, herbs, and offal. With a nice stable cracker a tiny bit of the sweet, slightly alcoholic gelee, you've got a solid crunch, and that wonderful feeling of something very unctuous coating your entire mouth. The liver was certainly a hit among friends, and I encourage you to try it. It might even turn a finicky eater to the dark side of adventurous noshing. 

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