It was the worst Christmas Day of either of our lives, and the best Day After this year, when one of our little dogs got into a boneheaded neighbor’s toxic butter and marijuana pail (?! yes, that’s right, and I don’t know what it’s for either, anyone who does please email me), and disappeared Christmas Eve. He must have thought he was dying, at least judging from the reaction of the other two dogs who we found had also gotten into the pail, though not quite as greedily. His instinct must have been to go to ground somewhere.
I’d made all sorts of nice things for us to eat Christmas Day. Needless to say, when it started to rain, then threatened to snow, and still no sign of the poor dog (even though we made about a million trips up and down the icy road yelling ourselves hoarse), neither of us could taste a thing. Well, except for the Christmas whiskey. But that was what you might call comfort food in this sort of situation.
One thing I’d made the day before was Chicken Liver Mousse. The plan was to have it as an appetizer, along with a lot of other little bits and bobs, before the roast duck, and potato pancakes with sour cream and salmon caviar, for dinner. But lunchtime came around, and we both—even the vegetarian. mind you—wanted more protein than the planned tomato soup had to offer.
So I toasted a couple of pieces of New Sammy’s Cowboy Sourdough, and put them out with a hunk of blue cheese, the pot of chicken liver mousse, and a big pile of cornichons. Tomato soup in mugs at the side.
I couldn’t even finish the soup. And the tastes of everything else dulled down almost to sawdust. Only almost, though. There was something comforting about a piece of toast slathered with the pate, and dotted with pickles. If it wasn’t the taste delight it would have been on a happier day, it was soothing to eat. Even the Beloved Vegetarian Husband thought so. At least, so I assumed, as we sat there munching in silence and anxiously looking out the window to see if a little black and gray dog had returned.
We ate the planned dinner, but without much zest, and it was probably the first time in history that Alex didn’t compliment me on my potato pancakes. Also the first time in history that I only picked at a small piece of roast duck.
More whiskey after dinner, and then to bed for a night that was punctuated—at one a.m., four a.m., and seven—by drives up and down the road, looking for pawprints in the snow that had begun to fall.
By morning, the snow was a blizzard, and we had just about given up hope, when a neighbor called to say they’d spotted the dog coming out of their woodshed. Ten minutes later he was home, still shaky and groggy and red-eyed, but alive, and, shortly, well.
We cried and laughed with relief, and fed him brown rice cooked in broth, and decided to have Christmas all over again.
And you know what? That tomato soup with toast and chicken liver mousse on the side tasted fantastic. And cold roast duck was a treat that couldn’t be beat.
So I give the dual purpose chicken liver mousse recipe here, as a medicinal lagniappe, and a festive snack, along with wishes that everyone have a safe, happy 2011, and that no one dear to you or dear to someone you know is harmed.
Chicken Liver Mousse (you can call it pate, or spread, or chopped, or whatever your inclination, as long as you enjoy it):
for one honking big pot of mousse, enough to feed six as appetizers (with toast, crackers, celery sticks, whatever):
1 lb. chicken livers
2 cloves of garlic
a sprig of thyme
a bunch of butter
a little cream
a swish of Irish whiskey, or brandy, or port, or sherry, or wine open on your kitchen counter
salt and pepper
This is easy:
Melt about a half stick of butter in a saute pan. Trim the fatty bits off the livers. Toss the livers in the pan, and cook at medium heat, turning the livers. Cook about 3 minutes on each side—you want them still pink inside, and smooth (not crusty with heat) on the outside). Add two chopped cloves of garlic and a stripped sprig of fresh thyme (or a little bit of dried). Toss to mix. Add a little cream and let it cook down (this happens fast). Scrape into a food processor, or a blender, and whoosh until smooth. While this is cooling, heat the pan, add a swish of the liquor of your choice, and deglaze what’s on the bottom left from the livers. Add that to the smooth chicken livers. Mix. Salt and pepper. Add softened butter to taste, till you get the texture you like. I added about another tablespoon.
Decant the whole thing into a little pot. Melt some butter and pour over the top on to make a seal. This will keep it from discoloring, and it just adds unction when you finally dig in.
It keeps about five or six days in the fridge. Take my advice and be sure to have some pickles handy (cornichons are the best, I think), when you finally get around to spreading it on a piece of toast or a cracker. Pickles on top.
(And my own special hint: try spicy Dijon mustard spread on the toast before you add the mousse. Yes.)
You can always tell your vegetarian loved ones that it’s made from tofu. Not to fool them, just to give them an excuse. It always works around here, anyway.
By the way, it’s great with a little tot of whiskey on the side. But then, practically everything is.
Safe 2011, everyone.