Smooth, creamy, savory, mineral-rich chicken liver mousse is appearing on menus all over Boston and I find it amusing. In your life, you’ve most likely smelled something and it sparked a memory – this seems to be a common experience. Beyond scent memories, I also associate certain foods, particular dishes, and tastes with memorable moments. Liver is one of those foods and it always prompts two visuals to pop into my head. The first is my mom’s mom, my grandmother, whom we called mum-ar. She loved liver. She would order fried chicken livers sprinkled with parsley and lemon, or calves liver with thinly sliced raw onions. I know she ate other things too, but she enjoyed liver quite a bit – especially in my presence. One instance resulted in a visceral repulsion brought on by a slight wobble of the amorphous grey blob, but now things are different. Many years later and armed with a more daring palate, the taste and texture of the creamy lobes conjure up delightful nostalgia.
The second visual, along with a scent memory, is that of a giant cold case at a Jewish deli on Long Island. When my family would visit relatives we’d pop into the deli for bagels. The cold case was always neatly stocked with trays of lox, whitefish, pickled herring, cream cheeses of many flavors, and of course, a bowl mounded high with chopped liver. We ordered chewy, yeasty bagels, tangy cream cheese, and salty fish, but never the liver. To this day, upon entering any Jewish deli, I ask myself, “what’s wrong with the liver?” Absolutely nothing.
I’ve happily accepted that liver and I will always have an intimate relationship and figured I might as well develop my own culinary spin on the offal. Here’s a recipe for Chicken Liver Mousse with Apple and Calvados, dedicated to mum-ars and Jewish delis everywhere.
1 pound chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed of veins and sinew
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon white pepper, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1 red delicious apple or honeycrisp, peeled and cut into very small dice
¼ cup Calvados
¼ teaspoon dried sage
¼ teaspoon ground thyme
½ to ¾ cup light cream
2 loaves of French bread, sliced thin on the bias
Season the trimmed chicken livers with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon white pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the seasoned chicken livers and sear for 2 minutes on both sides or until the outsides are browned but the insides are light pink. Transfer the livers to a blender.
Melt the remaining butter in the large saute pan, over medium heat. Sweat the shallots and apple until the apples are soft, about 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with Calvados, reduce the liquid by half, then add the sage and thyme. Transfer this mixture to the blender as well.
With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle in enough light cream until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Transfer the mousse to small jars or ramekins and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic directly on the surface of the mousse to prevent oxidation. Chill the mousse in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours, or until set.
Serve with grilled bread, pickled or raw red onion, dill fronds, and parsley leaves.