Chicken Liver Mousse

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Chicken Liver MousseWe started serving chicken liver mousse at Beast within a week of opening, and it’s now one of our signature charcuterie items. The exact formula has been played with a lot over the years, as I’ve experimented with different liquors. I have also tried out various vehicles to serve it with, but my favorite is buttery, flaky Homemade Ritz Crackers.
You can bake the mousse in essentially any type of vessel (a 1½-quart terrine mold or glass loaf pan works well). You must allow at least ¾-inch headroom, however, as the mousse rises slightly as it bakes. Once the mousse has been in the oven for 15 minutes, keep an eye on the temperature because the size and depth of the vessel will affect cooking time. For the water bath, which will allow the mousse to cook gently, you will need a deep roasting pan, hotel pan, or other large ovenproof pan or dish for holding the terrine mold or loaf pan (the water must come at least halfway up the sides of the smaller dish).

  • Yield: 2 Servings


  • 8 ounces chicken livers
  • 1 cup cultured full-fat buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 0.125 teaspoon pink curing salt no. 1 (see salt)
  • 0.125 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Madeira
  • 2 tablespoons port
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • ¾ teaspoon amaretto
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup diced bacon, in small pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 1-inch pieces,
  • very soft
  • 1 tablespoon cold heavy cream
How to Make It
  1. Combine the chicken livers and buttermilk in a small bowl, cover, and soak overnight in the refrigerator to pull out any blood and impurities.
  2. The next day, rinse and dry the livers, then trim off any large veins or discolored parts. Toss the livers with the salt, curing salt,and pepper, coating evenly, and set aside.
  3. Put the Madeira, port, bourbon, amaretto, shallot, thyme, garlic, and bacon in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan. Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Remove and discard the thyme sprig from the cooled shallot-bacon mixture, then transfer the mixture to a blender and add the livers. Blend until the mixture is very smooth, about 1½ minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 300°F. For this next step, it is important that all of the ingredients are truly at room temperature (except for the cream, which should be cold). Anything that isn’t will prevent emulsification, which means you’ll end up with a splotchy, unappealing spread. With the machine running, add the egg and blend until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Then slowly add the pieces of butter, one at a time, until they are fully incorporated and the mixture is totally emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes. In the last few seconds of blending, pour in the cream. Test the mousse by spreading a small amount across a plate with the back of the spoon. If it is properly emulsified, the mixture will look smooth and uniform, and if not, you’ll see separate pieces of fat and protein. Keep in mind that you will also be passing the mousse through a fine-mesh strainer, so don’t worry about a few specks of membrane or bacon.
  6. If the mixture is not emulsified properly, there is a fix: Scrape it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Wrap the bowl with a hot kitchen towel and turn on the mixer to high speed. The towel will warm everything to the same temperature, and the mixture will emulsify.
  7. Pour the liver mixture into a fine-mesh strainer and push it through with a bowl scraper or the back of a large serving spoon to strain out anything that didn’t blend completely. Pour the mousse mixture into a 1½-quart terrine mold or glass loaf pan. To prevent a skin from forming on the top of the mousse during baking, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the top dimension of the mold or pan, place the parchment over the top, and gently tuck in the edges.
  8. Place the terrine mold or loaf pan into a deep roasting pan or hotel pan and fill the larger pan halfway with hot water (the water should come at least halfway up the sides of the mold). Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil to create a steam bath for cooking the mousse.
  9. Bake until a thermometer inserted into the center of the mousse reads 150°F. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the mold. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and then remove the mold from the water bath. Pull back the parchment and allow the mousse to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, wrap the mousse still in its container securely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 1 week.
  10. Serve the mousse chilled, directly from the vessel in which it was baked or spooned into a serving bowl. Exposure to oxygen will cause discoloration, so put out only as much as people will eat in one sitting and scoop the rest into tightly sealed containers. If you plan to serve the mousse in the container in which it was baked, after it has chilled, scrape off the slightly oxidized top layer to reveal the pale pink mousse underneath.

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