This past Sunday I finally got the chance to meet some of my fellow MLFB’ers (that’s Michigan Lady Food Bloggers to the rest of you) at a get-together at Rena‘s lovely Ann Arbor home. I can’t quite recall how our theme was chosen, but it was decided that we would all bring a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I. Now, this may come as a shock to some of you who have ever seen my cookbook shelves, but I actually don’t own any Julia Child cookbooks. I guess I always thought of MtAoFC as démodé and somewhat irrelevant to the modern kitchen. Still, I got a copy from the library and flipped through, settling on the recipe for Mousse de Foies de Volailles as my contribution. As I read through, some of the recipes did seem obtuse, but others were definitely appealing. Most of all, I was pleasantly surprised and amused by the voice in which the book is written. I also read Julie & Julia over the weekend and will do a book review of that soon, but for now, suffice it to say that it probably aided my appreciation for MtAoFC.
I wasn’t able to find fresh chicken livers at the grocery store, so I wound up using frozen, but the taste of the finished product was still good. Since cognac was not in the budget, I substituted brandy, which worked just fine. I had some quatre-épices (a French spice blend of pepper, clove, nutmeg and ginger, typically used to season pâtés), so I substituted that for the seasonings the recipe called for.
The pâté came together just as easily as the conversation among the group that day (aided, I might add, by a lovely selection of French wines, chosen for us by Matt Morgan of Morgan & York in Ann Arbor). My friend Kate came along with me and was just as excited as I was to sample the dishes of these talented ladies. It was great to finally be able to put some faces to the names of bloggers I’ve been following and corresponding with for several months now, and I regret having missed the last gathering (Summer in January). But I’m confident there will be many more to come, and that the food will be just as delectable!
Some of the offerings Sunday included quiche à l’oignon, tarte Tatin, a country pork liver pâté, champignons à la Grecque, some chocolate-filled choux pastry puffs, a chocolate crème brulée, some baguette and cheeses, and a wonderful chicken and sausage stew with rouille made by our hostess. I wanted to pace myself and taste different
foods with different samples of the wine, so I was making my way rather slowly through all the goodies on the table. Much to my dismay, when at last I got to the desserts, the tarte Tatin was completely gone! I had to content myself with a little scraping of the crust, which tasted heavenly… I think I may have to make one for myself in the near future to make up for this disappointment. 🙂 In spite of that, Kate and I left the party blissfully satiated, and she was cool enough to let me nap in the car on the way back
since I was exhausted (long weekend!) and had band practice immediately upon returning home. There are no rewards without time and hard work though, and that goes for music as well as cooking. That said, this recipe is an easy one that you can put together in 30-40 minutes the next time you want to add a little French sophistication to your appetizer spread.
Mousse de Foies de Volailles aka Chicken Liver Pâté (adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I)
1 lb chicken livers
1 stick (4 oz) + 2 tbs butter
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup cognac or madeira (I substituted brandy)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp quatre-épices
1/2 tsp salt
Rinse and drain the livers and remove the stringy fatty bits. Julia instructs removing any green or black spots (eww), but my livers fortunately did not have any. Cut the livers into 1/2-inch pieces. Melt the 2 tbs butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the shallot until it begins to soften, then add the livers. Cook until firm but still rosy on the inside. Scrape pan contents into the bowl of a food processor.
Return pan to heat, adding the cognac. Reduce to about 3 tbs, then add to food processor. In the same skillet, melt the remaining stick of butter. When melted, add this, the cream, and seasonings to the processor and blend until smooth. At this point, it will look like nothing so much as a meat smoothie, but don’t worry- all the fat in there will harden up just fine when it gets chilled. Julia instructs pressing it through a sieve, but I didn’t want to make that much of a mess, and mine still turned out plenty smooth.
Line a small loaf pan or a few large ramekins with plastic wrap or wax paper if you want to be able to unmold your pâté. If you’re ok with serving it straight from the container, you can skip this step and just pour it in. Put in the refrigerator until completely chilled and firm. If serving at a party, keep in mind that it will become quite soft if left sitting out, due to all that butter. Serve with water crackers or little toasts or baguette slices, good mustard, and something pickled.