Authors: The Dogs Breakfast
We recently discovered a butcher who made our spirits bright over the holidays with such delectables as dindonneau (young turkey), and confit of goose drumsticks. A few weeks ago we noticed they had goose and pheasant livers in stock, which gave us the idea to try a mousse de foie de volaille. Of course when we went back to get them, all the exotic livers had been snatched up.
One thing we really should know by now is when you see something like wild game livers, you grab them, before someone else does. You don’t say – they’re not on the list, or, I didn’t plan to make paté tomorrow. You seize the opportunity. On the other hand, you have to exercise a certain discipline, or else you come home with things that are just going spoil. We’re constantly throwing out green chiles, for example, because they seem so rare to us, and look so cute in their little green grocer’s package. One will get used in scrambled eggs and the other 39 will turn into mush in the crisper, beside some slippery cilantro.
I’m sure you understand. And in any case, there’s nothing wrong with good chicken livers. This is the second time we’ve made this mousse, and it seems the only real trick is deciding how hot and how long to cook the livers. The first time around, we left them rather pink, which gave the final mousse a wonderful colour, but something of a raw finish. On the second attempt, we treated the livers more like meat – searing them for flavour and poking to make sure they were springy and done. The browning made the mousse taste a little too meaty. It’s a delicate balance. We’ll split the difference next time, colouring them only very slightly on the outside, and letting the inside cook to a pale (not bright) pink.
What’s so wonderful about a simple liver mousse is how easy it is to accessorize. You can make a crust of cracked black pepper and serve with hot Polish mustard. You can load it with your favourite herb. Here we added pistachios to the mousse and on top as well. We used Turkish nuts from Gaziantep, and they taste as intensely of pistachio as their emerald colour suggests. Good with a Port jelly, but great with the home-made pepper jelly we were lucky enough to get for Christmas.
Chicken liver mousse (slightly adapted from Julia Child)
NOTES: Some butchers sell livers and hearts together, if this is the case, you will need a little more to make a pound of livers alone. You can omit the pistachios if you like. Give the liver trimmings to your dog and he will love you forever.
1 lb. chicken livers
2 tbsp. chopped shallot
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. butter, plus 1/2 C melted butter
1/3 C Cognac, Armagnac, Madeira, Port, etc.
1/4 C whipping cream
1/4 C shelled pistachios, plus 2 tbsp. chopped pistachios
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of dried thyme
1. Trim the livers well, removing any fat, large veins, or discoloured parts. Slice them into equal-sized pieces, about one inch square.
2. Sauté the liver and shallot with the black pepper in butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly coloured on the outside, and cooked to a uniform, pale pink on the inside.
3. Scrape the liver and shallot mixture into a blender jar. Deglaze the pan with the cognac (or whatever), reduce slightly, and pour this liquid into the blender jar.
4. To the blender jar, add the cream, whole shelled pistachios, salt and thyme. Blend to a smooth paste. Add the melted butter and blend again.
5. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, force the mixture through a seive. Pour into a mould or ramekins, and top with the chopped nuts.