I visited Georges Blanc, an unpretentious riverside restaurant in Vonnas, a small town in southern Burgundy, just days after the Michelin Guide had elevated the establishment to three-star status. The place was understandably in a state of excitement. I feel in love with a chicken mousseline I had that night. Blanc had transformed a simple chicken mousse into a truly ethereal concoction. The main ingredient was perfect blond livers from prized Bresse chickens, which were raised a stone's throw from the restaurant.
I knew that our chickens were not capable of producing those huge pale livers, but I thought perhaps I could do something else to achieve a similar great-tasting dish. I began by coating livers generously with sea salt and black pepper, then pan-seared them in olive oil at a high temperature. When they were dark brown on the outside but still rare inside, I removed them and added some diced apples to the hot skillet: they caramelized instantly. I poured in Calvados, cognac, and cream. Finally, I pureed the cooled livers and apples with toasted walnuts. The last ingredient is all-important: a good dose of sweet butter. While the result, served with toasted walnut bread, does not taste exactly like Blanc's mousse, it has its own charm.
- 2 pounds fresh chicken livers, preferably organic, trimmed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound baking apples, such as Rome Beauty or Gala
- 4 shallots
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup Calvados or bourbon
- 1/4 cup cognac
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Toasted slices of walnut bread or good pumpernickel or white country bread
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Liberally coat the livers with sea salt and pepper; set aside on a plate. Peel and core the apples and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Chop the shallots.
3. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally; transfer to a plate.
4. In a large heavy enameled or other nonreactive skillet, heat the oil until it almost begins to smoke. Add the livers and stir them rapidly to sear, then cook for about 4 minutes, turning once. Remove the livers to a plate just when they become mahogany colored.
5. Add the apples and shallots to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Turn off the heat, and carefully pour in the Calvados and cognac. Stir in the cream.
6. Melt the butter and let cool.
7. Combine the livers, apple mixture, and walnuts in a blender and puree just until the mixture is homogenous. Add the melted butter and blend well, then season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want the mousse to be very smooth, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve. Taste again for salt and pepper, transfer to a ceramic crock, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Serve with the walnut toast.