Sometimes I get into a funk. And sometimes I get the idea to cook my way out of it: by attempting some grandiose or favorite kitchen recipe, I can generate a positive spark and boost my mood/ self-confidence. Does it always work? No. In fact, if the cooking endeavor should fail, the funk can worsen exponentially. Is the process easily explained? No.
And this is why I find myself staring at a bowl of chicken liver mousse. Where is it from? you ask. I made it yesterday, in an attempt to cook myself out of a funk.
Have I eaten chicken liver? Exactly once, and only a bite off a friend’s plate. Have I ever made a meat-based mousse? Heck no.
It began on Food52, a website I frequently source for recipes. This recipe for “Winter Spring Summer Fall Chicken Mousse” had just been named an editors’ pick, and people were raving about how delicious it was. Plus, I live in Europe now, where things like liver are a lot more on the menu. In fact, just last weekend I was in a new bakery and was offered a free sample of what I am pretty sure was a liver spread on toast. And I liked it.
Suddenly it became clear that I had to attempt this recipe. I read it over, and it wasn’t even too complicated or ingredient-intensive. Chicken livers, it turns out, are rather affordable. A trip to the grocery store and the liquor store (I opted for a different orange liquor, TripleSec, because it was cheaper than Grand Marnier), and I was home cooking at three in the afternoon. I think the early start time had something to do with avoiding my husband’s questions if he were present as to what in the dickens I was doing.
As with all healthy recipes, you begin with butter and onion and thyme in a pan, and then it kind of sneaks up on you: next thing you know, there are chicken livers in there, too. You cook them until they are “rosy” in the middle. Having never cooked liver before, and a little afraid of poisoning myself, I opted to probably overcook them.
Here’s where it gets good: after you’ve got rosy livers, you douse them in the liquor and set the thing on fire. Setting a dish on fire was a second component of this recipe that was a first for me. A couple times when a recipe has called for flambe, I’ve asked Tim to do it (I guess I value my own eyebrows more?) and watched from a safe distance. But this time I was ready to do it myself. I didn’t have long matches, I didn’t have a long lighter thing… so I made the unconventional choice of doing the lighting while wearing a rubber kitchen glove, just in case of trouble.
It’s a little hard to tell, but the dish is on fire in this photo. It lit instantly when I got the match near the liquid, no burning involved or hair lost, and I even had time to get the camera on it. The liquor burned satisfyingly for good few seconds, and I think this was the turning point of the funk: the successful flambe. The recipe’s all downhill from there: you cool it off, puree it in a food processor, adding some cream; then chill it overnight and casually mention when your husband asks, “So what did you do today?” “I made chicken liver mousse.”
Frankly, I liked the mousse. I don’t want to eat it in large quantities (which is unfortunate, seeing as the recipe made enough for twenty, I think), but a little of it on some crusty bread before dinner was quite tasty. Tim gave it a taste and prompt veto, but at least he tried. And besides, success had already been achieved.
Related exploits also resulted in fresh lemonade and hazelnut-crusted chicken in a raspberry sauce (recommended).