Ever heard the old saying, "What am I, chopped liver?" Nowadays, chopped liver is actually a pretty fashionable thing to be. You'll find monkfish liver on the menu at trendy udon spot Raku in Manhattan's East Village. Chef Marcus Samuelsson is an outspoken offal fan. Sweetbreads are a frequent fixture on the menus of fancy restaurants, and despite their name, they're the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb. (Don't knock it till you try it.) Then there's chicken liver mousse on sourdough toast, which is being served as an appetizer at Harper's in Hudson, New York — and this dish is well worth the hype.
Pâté (not to be confused with terrine) is French for "paste," an admittedly unsexy association for such a haute food. Chicken liver mousse and pâté are used interchangeably to describe the same spread, a pureed combination of meat and fat, although pâté might have a finer puree than a regular mousse. Chicken liver mousse is a combination of chicken livers, butter, milk, heavy cream, shallot, dry white wine or sherry, and whatever complementary herbs and spices cooks prefer to add. It's a delicacy served cold, and the time it spends chilling actually enhances its flavors. The result is a rich, meaty, ultra-savory spread with a creamy mouthfeel and an almost frosting-like texture. Thanks to its unique light smoothness, chicken liver mousse makes an ideal spread on golden toast. (But don't just take our word for it.)
How Chicken Liver Mousse Is Made
To make this French classic, soak the chicken livers in milk, drain, pat dry, and cut into chunks. Then, grab a pan and sauté diced shallots in butter, adding the chopped chicken livers, and then the wine. Finally, toss it all plus the remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. You could also pass your mousse through a sieve if you prefer an ultra-smooth texture. The liver's natural fattiness acts as a binding agent, keeping the mixture spreadable and creamy; simply chill the mousse in the fridge to help it set before digging in. From there, toast bread on a griddle and cover with a generous swipe of chicken liver mousse.
Salt, pepper, thyme, mace, and ginger are commonly added spices, but feel free to employ a little liberty here to create different profiles. You could try adding parsley, capers, tart apple, juniper berries, bay leaves, Bartlett pears, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, nutmeg, or cloves. As you select your chicken liver, keep in mind that different colors mean different things. Deep red livers are gamier and pale colored livers are fattier. Although, both fresh and frozen chicken livers will work here.
Sustainability Meets Elegance
Pâté undoubtedly carries a connotation of sophistication that is associated with wealth and luxury, as in pâté de foie gras. But, chicken liver mousse started as a thrifty way to use up the parts of the animal that nobody wanted to eat. Plus, it's nutrient-dense and high in iron. Foodies in Northern and Central Europe have been whipping up this leftovers-mousse as a peasant dish for ages, and across the ocean around the turn of the 20th century, U.S. foodies became fans of offal as a similarly cost-effective way to use up every part of the animal. (Eleanor Roosevelt made FDR eat sweetbreads basically every day during wartime for this very reason.) This waste-nothing sentiment followed consumers into the 21st century, and undesirable bits transformed into something so good that foodies figured it had to be expensive.
It's a smart move for restaurants to put chicken liver mousse on their menus because it means they can sell everything and not toss any ingredients out. Some metropolitan-minded dining institutions serve chicken liver toast, and these days it's a bar snack at the highly-acclaimed Double Chicken Please in NYC (where cocktails are north of $20).
How To Try Chicken Liver Mousse For Yourself
Making chicken liver mousse is a great excuse to visit your local butcher. Just grab some raw or frozen chicken livers and a few staple ingredients and you're ready to roll. Different types of pre-made pâté are also available for purchase from a variety of online retailers. Schaller & Weber and Three Little Pigs both offer 4-ounce packages of chicken liver mousse for $8.99. For particularly zealous fans, New Zealand-based purveyor Craft sells jars of chicken liver mousse wholesale.
Smear the stuff on baguette slices or crackers to make knockout cocktail hour canapés at your next dinner party. You could even add toppings like grated horseradish, mustard, bacon, microgreens, sliced radishes, hard-boiled egg coins, or a squirt of fresh lemon juice. But, toast is far from the only vehicle for enjoying chicken liver mousse. Try it on a classic Vietnamese banh mi, or kick it traditional French-style and wrap that mousse in puff pastry for pâté en croûte. The rich spread quickly elevates a charcuterie board when paired with gouda, cornichons, sweet-savory onion jam, and a sprinkle of coarse Maldon salt flakes. (We recommend pairing with a Pinot Noir to cut through the fattiness of the mousse.)
Read the original article on Tasting Table.