Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chicken Liver Mousse, not Moose


I've had a pound of chicken livers from the farmers market locked away in the freezer for quite some time.  The girlfriend isn't exactly dying to eat them, so I needed to wait until she was out of town.  But I still had to figure out what to do with them.  Fortunately, one of my colleagues is a former  chef, and when I told him about my stash of offal, he eagerly offered me a recipe.  Chicken liver mousse makes the medicine go down smooth.

Liver is the original multi-vitamin.  I'm generally cautious about parsing foods based on their vitamin, mineral, or other micronutrient content.  After all, it's hard to be nutrient deficient, or insufficient, when your main foods are vegetables, meat, and dairy.  So looking at nutrient content is almost a moot point.  But liver is worth talking about.  

Either cherished or despised, this vital organ provides compounds that are hard to squeeze out of standard muscle meat, such as choline and vitamin A, and provides more B vitamins than anything else.  

The graphs below show the vitamin content of 3.5 ounces of chicken liver, 1.75 ounces of chicken liver (an amount that could reasonably be eaten in a night's worth of pâté), and 3.5 ounces of chicken breast tenders, all cooked.  Vitamins are measured in different units, such as international units, milligrams, or micrograms, so it's only valid to compare the vitamin contents between the foods, and not between the different vitamins.  Two graphs are shown since some vitamins simply come in higher numbers (vitamin A) than others (choline), and I didn't want to do any crazy graph standardizing on Christmas Day.  A quick glance shows that the amount of choline and vitamins A and B12 in liver compared to breast meat is remarkable.  Whether you're an obligate carnivore, or mostly vegetarian, the occasional liver dish would be a nice way to round out a diet.  

Fig. 1  Vitamins with smaller numbers
Fig 2. Vitamins with larger numbers

But enough with the lecture.  The mousse is rich, slightly sweat from the Madiera, and a way to use up the somewhat obscure chicken livers that might otherwise be discarded before roasting a whole bird.  There isn't a lot of liver taste, I promise. But I still have to see if the girlfriend approves.  Merry Christmas!

Chicken Liver Mousse

Here's what you need.  And yes, it's essentially a 1:1 ratio of butter to liver, by weight.

Ingredients:  1/2 pound chicken livers, 1/2 pound butter, Madiera, water, salt and pepper.

1.  Poach the chicken livers in a 50:50 mix of Madiera and water,  or 1 cup of each, over medium-high heat.  Cook for no more than 3 minutes.  You want the livers cooked to rare or medium-rare, as overcooking them will negatively affect the puree.  

2.  Set the livers aside.  Reduce the cooking liquid to just under 1/4 cup.  In the mean time, cut cold butter into 3/4 inch cubes.

3.  As the cooking liquid approaches the right volume, puree the livers in a food processor using small pulses.  Then, turn the processor ON, and add butter, one cube at a time.  Hit it with a few splashes of fresh Madiera as you go. 

4.  Add the reduced cooking liquid (it should be a rich brown color) to the processor.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Process to incorporate.

5.  Spread the mousse into a shallow ramekin.  Cover tightly as you would guacamole, and remember that all of the iron in the liver will oxidize and brown when exposed to air, so make sure you keep it covered when it is stored.  Let it set-up in fridge for one hour.  The dish can easily be made the morning or night before, and stored in the fridge.

Serve over toasted baguette with thinly sliced blanched asparagus, along with a nice glass of Pinot Noir.  

This post was shared on Traditional Tuesdays.


  1. My brother hated liver and always stated that he "would rather be deader than liver". I can't say that I shared his sentiment entirely....but close. Having said that...I would love to give this try! Good luck with the GF! : )

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