Welcome to my second installment of Pro Pastry. Today over at WordsFoodArt.com, I have a review of the cookbook this recipe came from – out today! – and a bit more on the chef behind it. Take a look at the why’s behind this series, and here for my first piece in this series, Dairy-Free Creme Brulee from Chef Joe Murphy.
Okay, so this title is kinda misleading.
There’s no gluten to be found in the original of this recipe, and I did not eat that beautiful slice of toasted bread in the image above. The recipe’s not completely dairy free, as it contains copious amounts of butter. But it did take a touch of adaptation to work with it and I’m so glad I did, because I devoured it on some rice crackers, feasted it to a friend on that bread as part of his birthday dinner and, a few days later, the ladies in my writers group helped me polish off yet another ramekin, with one of the ladies going to town on it. After I explained that she was eating chicken livers, she proclaimed its excellence and said she was glad not to have originally known what was in it, as she wouldn’t have tried nor fell in love with it if she had.
Game, set, match! for Jacqueline (still have the U.S. Open on the brain, and still boggled by their scoring system).
So why a chicken liver mousse recipe up here? Because for years my doctors have been telling me that liver is extremely good for me, with this run down immune system and all. I’ve often straddled the line between anemia and non-anemia (?), which is why I started eating red meat and trying to get some of the more powerhouse organs involved in my diet now and then. But I hadn’t had a chicken liver recipe that I liked; that didn’t taste too livery. I often like it when dining out, but my versions had a bit too much tang and weren’t nearly satiating enough.
Until now. I found my answer in a new book, out today.
I first met chef Jamie Bissonnette when he came to town to open a NYC outpost of his Boston restaurant, Toro, which he shares with his partner Chef Ken Oringer. In our interview for Serious Eats, we talked about their transition south, and the flavor-packed food he dishes up (and I adore) at his restaurant. Jamie is an extremely talented chef, with heaps of passion and food with soul. On top of that, he’s a generous, sweet, really fun dude. I don’t know him well, but what I know I respect.
His first cookbook, The New Charcuterie Cookbook, comes out today! Head over to WordsFoodArt for my weird little review of why you should buy the book (and if there’s any inkling urge inside of you to make your own sausage or cure your own meats, you really should).
There are a lot of recipes in the book I want to make, but his Easiest Chicken Liver Mousse jumped out. Both for the fact that it would scratch that make-my-own-liver-mousse-that-I-actually-like itch and that it’s one of the recipes contained within that doesn’t require a meat grinder or an animal part that I couldn’t easily grab at the store. Also, many mousse recipes contain cream – which is really hard to replace in this kind of dish – and this one only has butter (other than the soaking part that I’ve adapted below), which is so low in protein that I can get away with it, especially with a high fat butter from organic animals, which I use. And mousse or pate sounds so much fancier than making it actually is, and I had hosting that birthday and writers’ group coming up…
Don’t judge the deliciousness of this recipe by that photo above — I made it during a string of dark New York City days when lighting in my kitchen was the enemy. And it’s really hard to make anything brown and that looks like cat food look as delicious as it tastes, anyway.
It’s full of flavor, with sweetness and spice playing off of each others, and with hints of earth and nuttiness that grow stronger with a few days in the fridge. It’s really easy — if you can saute onions, garlic, meat and deglaze a pan and own some sort of food processor, you’ve got this. And it was simple to adapt; the only step I needed to replace was soaking the livers overnight in something other than milk, as the recipe calls for. To do so, here’s a bit of my short phone chat with Jamie on this recipe:
What do you love about chicken liver mousse in general? I don’t like simply fried chicken livers. But chicken liver has so much sweetness and nuttiness on its own, so when you take the liver and cut it with something creamy, and then finesse it with some sort of alcohol–cider even–adding garlic and shallots, you’ve got something with pop. I like to have spice balanced with acid; people making chicken liver mousse often don’t look for that balance, instead opting for a highly-seasoned mousse, and that’s how it can get fucked up.
What’s the benefit of soaking the chicken livers in cow’s milk overnight? The blood that’s in the chicken and in and around the liver is kind of off-tasting, and smells kind of like sulfur. So I soak them to get that off, to take the sourness out.
I can’t drink cow’s milk. What’s the best substitute? Goat’s milk? Goat Kefir? Soak it in soda water. It will pull out a lot of that funk as well, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Why choose espellete (a French chili pepper)? What are alternatives for those who don’t have / can’t find it? I love that chili because it has a natural smokiness, and a different kind of heat to it. You could use a mixture of cayenne and paprika. Cayenne can be really sharp heat, though. You could use any kind of chili pepper you want, or a red or green curry even!
So, with all that in mind, all I did to adapt the recipe was sub seltzer in for the goat’s milk, and I used a darling smoky pepper from my pantry instead of the esplette. I used one of my favorite single malts – Brenne – instead of brandy/cognac, because it’s aged in cognac barrels and has a sweet, earthy, almost musky profile to it that I had a feeling would be dangerous in this (it was divinity itself).
I also made the schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) recipe from the back of his book, since I’d wanted to make schmaltz when a private chef for a Jewish family whose recipes I tore through. You can top this off with schmaltz as directed at the end of the recipe, or just store tightly sealed and served within a few days. I can’t vouch for it’s success, yet, but I also wrapped a container of the mousse tightly in plastic wrap and froze it, intending to eat it within the month. I’ll report back on that.
Until then, congrats to Jamie on a huge accomplishment, and happy cooking.
– Jacqueline xo
Easiest Chicken Liver Mousse from Chef Jamie Bissonnette
Adapted with permission by Jamie Bissonnette from The New Charcuterie Cookbook.
- 1 lb chicken livers
- 2 cups seltzer water
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 lb (two sticks) plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
- Vegetable oil (enough to brown the livers)
- 3 shallots, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh Thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1/4 cup cognac, brandy or Brenne whisky
- 2 tsp esplette or sweet/spicy/smoky chili pepper to your liking
- 1/2+ tsp salt, to taste
Pour the chicken livers into a stainless steel bowl and cover with seltzer (or milk, if you’re not allergic). Cover, refrigerate, and soak overnight.
Drain the soda and blood from the livers and lay on clean towels to dry completely. Season with salt and pepper.
Cube 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of butter and drop into a food processor.
Add enough oil to a medium pan to coat, and bring up to medium/high heat. Cook the livers for about 2 minutes on each side, so that they’re seared but medium/rare. Remove the livers to the food processor with the cold butter.
Return pan to heat and add remaining tablespoon butter. Melt, then add shallots, garlic, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Saute until the onions and garlic are soft. Take pan off heat, and stir in liquor. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and pour into food processor.
Process on low to get things dancing a bit, then add chili pepper, taste, and adjust chili pepper and salt. Process on high until smooth, tasting occasionally to check that no tiny bits of liver remain.
Pour directly into ramekins, and cover with a thin layer of schmaltz, if applicable.
Serve with freshly chopped raw scallions, a smattering of awesome salt, maybe a drizzle of olive oil, and something really delicious to schmear it on.