Cheap Party Trick: Chicken Liver Mousse

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Forget any preconceptions you may have about “liver and onions”, or visions of sad children endlessly chewing and gagging for fear that dessert will be withheld. Imagine instead that you serve up a pretty little terrine of chicken liver mousse made of yes, liver and onions, but also butter, and bourbon, and cream, and love. You tell your dinner guests what it is, watch them eye you suspiciously, then gingerly spread a timid serving on toast and take a bite. Then you wait, while they experience the magic that is this rich, airy decadence, and proudly watch them go back for more, and more.

My friends, I have seen this magic with my own eyes. Even the most skeptical eater is always a lover after a taste. And the cheap part? Well, a pound of chicken livers, some quality whipping cream (assuming you’ve got butter and a bottle of bourbon on hand from which you can steal a splash), and a baguette will set you back a mere $10 or so. For that you can serve some delightful homemade paté at your next dinner party. I should probably mention chicken liver mousse is also perfect for picnics.

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Chicken Liver Mousse

  • 1 pound of fresh chicken livers
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme, plucked and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a skillet and cook the onions, seasoned with salt, stirring occasionally until golden and tender (about 10 minutes). Add the thyme and toss with the onions until fragrant. Add the bourbon and deglaze the pan, stirring until most of the liquid had reduced. Remove to a bowl.

In the same pan, over medium-high heat, melt the remaining butter and cook the livers. Toss them around in the pan until they’ve stiffened and are uniformly dark on the outside but are still pink inside (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat.

Combine the livers and the onion mixture in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Meanwhile, in a clean, non-reactive bowl, whip the cream until it forms peaks. Gently fold the liver puree into the whipped cream, adding a grind or two of fresh black pepper if you’d like. Transfer the mousse to several ramekins, mason jars, or any small serving dish you’d like, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled and set.

Before serving, remove the mousse from the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature if you can wait that long. Serve with crusty bread (or apple slices if there are gluten-free folks in your company) and a perhaps a bit of whole grain mustard on the side.

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I started making this recipe last year when I was regularly butchering chickens at North Mountain Pastures and had endless access to fresh, healthy chicken livers. Since arriving in California I’ve been apprenticing at The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, where we receive twice weekly deliveries of gorgeous chickens and all of their tasty organs from Amber and Son just north of us in Sebastopol.

For the good of your taste buds, your health and the planet, I encourage you to find a local a source for meat from well-raised animals. I recently spotted some rich, red chicken livers at the Whole Foods butcher counter, so if you don’t have direct access to farmers and pastured chickens, perhaps you can start your search there. Happy Eating!

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