The Smoothest, Creamiest, Best Liver Mousse Ever – Complete with Parsley and Fennel Frond Gelée

I know how weary some of you must be when you come across recipes that claim to be the best. But this liver mousse really is the best I have come across to date. And if that hasn’t excited you, you’ll be thrilled to know that it’s one of those things that are deceptively complicated. It may look like many steps are involved, but this mousse is so ridiculously easy to make and makes you look really good at any food-centric gathering.

Since the recipe isn’t mine, I guess I’m exempt from the guilt of self-congratulation. This mousse by the great Michel Richard came to my attention a little over two years ago. A downsizing friend asked me whether I wanted to have her brand new copy of Richard’s jumbo-sized book, Happy in the Kitchen — a gift from her friend who obviously had no idea she couldn’t and wouldn’t cook.

Now, asking me if I want a free cookbook is like asking Dagwood Bumstead if he wants a sandwich or Cookie Monster if you may interest him with a cookie. Asking me if I want a free Michel Richard cookbook is like asking a leech if it cares for a squirt of fresh blood. In a phlebotomic manner, I lunged at and latched on to the book.

Monsieur Richard calls this chicken liver mousse, “Chicken Faux Gras” — a most appropriate moniker. He then goes on to describe it as “… absolutely the creamiest thing on earth …,” “… if you don’t tell people what it is, they will think it is foie gras and that you are an extravagant host …, ” and, to reiterate his point, “… you won’t believe how much this tastes like foie gras …”

You should see my copy of Happy in the Kitchen; several of its pages show undeniable evidence of having been licked. The pages where this recipe is found are warped and cockled beyond recognition.

What makes this chicken liver mousse different from the familiar terrine de foies de volailles or the various versions of chicken liver pâté is the fact that the chicken liver is not cooked before it goes into a mold. Instead, it’s puréed right along with the other ingredients to form smooth-as-silk liver cream. The mixture is then baked in a bain marie, resulting in the smoothest, creamiest, most delicious pseudo-foie gras you’ve ever tasted. It glides, slides, slithers, and glissades on your bread like soft butter. And why wouldn’t it, with one whole stick of butter in the mixture?

The question you may have at this point is – Is the gelée necessary? The answer is yes and no. Personally, though the fresh herbal taste of the gelée provides is definitely welcome, I don’t think this liver mousse really needs anything else to make it better. However, the gelée serves as a layer of protection against oxidation to which the surface of the cooked mousse is susceptible. This is why the French traditionally cover dishes such as this with some kind of gelée or aspic.

It also serves another practical purpose: to hide any surface cracks that may occur. Liver mousse is very much like cheesecake. If the temperature is too high or the baking time is too long, it cracks on you. Should that happen, having the gelée on top of your cracked mousse is a brilliant way to hide the unsightly mistake. You can also come up with personalized decoration, as I did, made of whatever edibles available in the fridge. (In this case fennel fronds and a cranberry are used to replicate Rudolph’s nose and antlers. Please don’t ask me what happened to his head.)

Having said all that, it is up to you to keep or skip this extra step of making the gelée. Should you opt to go without it, be sure to scrape off the discolored portion on the surface of the mousse before serving.

I’ve simplified Richard’s recipe a bit and also halved it as this liver mousse doesn’t keep very long. It’s so rich that only 5-6 bites will satisfy you in one sitting. But if you’re cooking for a crowd, by all means, use the full recipe by doubling what I’m giving you here. The full recipe makes approximately 1 quart of liver mousse which is enough as an appetizer for about 12 people.

Printable Instructions

To make 1/2 quart mousse, start off by getting some boiling water handy and deciding what serving vessel(s) you would like to use. I like to use my 16-ounce rectangular ceramic dish. You can use something similar or two 8-ounce ramekins. Whatever it is you choose, this will be your serving dish as the mousse is served in the same container in which it’s baked; there’s no unmolding involved. Metal is a bad idea. Glass is okay, though a bit strange to the eye. Ceramic, I think, is your best bet.

Once the issue of serving vessels is settled, find another pan big enough to fit your baking container(s) into and deep enough to hold hot water whose level is supposed to come half way up the sides of the serving container(s). If you’ve baked anything au bain marie before, you know the drill. Once that’s done, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Then saute one small onion and one clove of garlic, both finely chopped, in 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat. You just want to soften the onion and garlic, not caramelize them. Once the onion and garlic pieces are softened, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the pan, cover, and gently simmer 2-3 minutes until the onion is very soft.

Add 7 tablespoons of butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from heat and pour the content into the best blender you have (let’s hope you get a high-speed blender like a Vitamix or K-Tec/Blendtec this holiday season, because they’re awesome!). Add to the blender 1/2 pound of raw chicken liver, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Blend until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. (To be sure that your mousse is really, really smooth, I would take an extra step of straining your mousse mixture through a fine-meshed sieve once before baking it.)

Pour the liver mixture into the baking/serving vessel(s) of your choice. Tap the bottom(s) of the dish(es) lightly against the countertop to get rid of air bubbles. Then place the filled dish(es) inside the larger pan. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the larger pan until the water is half way up the sides of the baking dish(es). Baking time will vary depending on whether you bake the whole thing in one big pan or divide it among smaller dishes.

It takes about 20-25 minutes for the mousse to cook in my 16-ounce ceramic dish. So if you use smaller containers, I’d check for doneness after 10-15 minutes have elapsed. You know the liver mousse is done when the mousse is set around the edges and the center is only very slightly jiggly. Remove the baking dish(es) from the pan and let the mousse cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, make the gelée. Choose your favorite green leafy herbs or vegetable (parsley and fennel fronds are used here). Take about a handful of it and blend that with 1/4 cup of water, a squeeze of lime or lemon, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar, until liquefied. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or coffee filter-lined sieve to get a completely clear, sediment-free green liquid. Whisk 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin powder into the herbal liquid and microwave it just to melt the gelatin. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Arrange fresh herb leaves, shaved carrots, or whatever strikes your fancy on the top of the your mousse, then submerge and seal them in place by pouring the gelatin mixture over the entire surface of the mousse. Refrigerate the mousse for 4-6 hours. Refrain from touching the surface of the gelatin lest your fingerprints become evident for all party guests to see. Just let the thing set undisturbed.

The assembled mousse can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. For best result, let the mousse stand at room temperature for half an hour before serving.

35 Responses to The Smoothest, Creamiest, Best Liver Mousse Ever – Complete with Parsley and Fennel Frond Gelée

  1. pigpigscorner December 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    Wow it looks really smooth and perfect! I happen to like the layer of gelée, it often complements the liver quite well.

  2. KennyT December 16, 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    I wish I could taste some of your liver mousse, it looks soooooooo gorgeous!

  3. Mike December 16, 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    That is just beautiful!

  4. 5 Star Foodie December 16, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    Oh, wow, this looks heavenly! I love the gellee layer! I just made a chopped liver pate that I will post soon but it’s really so inferior in comparison to this stunning mousse!

  5. ♥peachkins♥ December 17, 2009 at 12:51 am #

    it looks so elegant!

  6. Madame December 17, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    Thanks so much! I’ve been making chicken liver pâté for years, as part of my Christmas dinner contribution. I’m thrilled to try a new recipe, very different from my own. I really appreciate your sharing, and we’ll be drinking to your health at our Réveillon!

  7. Erica December 17, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    What a beautiful dish!Great for the holidays!

  8. Angry Asian December 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    oh OH! what a decadent looking dish, i am drooling over it and i’ve already emailed the roommate that *this* is what i want to make when i’m ready to play with animal liver parts.

  9. zenchef December 18, 2009 at 4:02 am #

    Wow. This is a work of beauty. A masterpiece!
    And the parsley and fennel gelée is beautiful too.
    Great work!

    Do you deliver? 🙂

  10. Dawn December 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    I can’t say I’ve ever tried liver mousse, however, your photo was so beautiful it makes me want to try it!

  11. ~Dana December 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    Looks amazing!

  12. lostpastremembered December 19, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    Absolutely gorgeous photo… I just got chicken liver and will make it for the holidays…. you have really put a party dress on the normally drab mousse with the gelée… brilliant. My first visit you your blog and i’ll be back soon!

  13. OysterCulture December 21, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    I love Michel Richard and need to unpack his cookbook to discover more gems like this. The pictures are so stunning, I’d almost, almost think it a shame to have to disturb the beauty of the fennel frond. What a great look, and another sure winner to add to my growing list of your recipes – there are just not enough hours in the day.

  14. lisaiscooking December 22, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    Beautiful mousse and gelee! And, I love that book. I have to try this.

  15. Anonymous December 27, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    Hey Leela! This mousse was a hit at our Christmas party! Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Caveman Cooking January 4, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    It’s funny that you call this “pseudo” foie gras. I was thinking this is just like what I used to get in Paris. Looks phenomenal, Leela!

  17. Marilou Garon January 6, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    This is a fantastic recipe. I have been making pâté de foie for years with a simmer-the-liver-then-puree-with-butter-and-refrigerate recipe. The ingredients are the same, but I find this method much better: smoother and silkier in texture. I quadrupled the recipe, skipped the gelée and had superb results. Worth keeping, many thanks!

  18. Judith May 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Fabulously gorgeous…. easy, and absolutely delicious! I added a splash of cognac with the cream… yum… THANK YOU! I was concerned that the fennel leaves might be too tough to slice through, but it was not a problem once the terrine was cold enough. I did not strain the mousse, but I did strain the aspic.

  19. Leela May 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Thanks for the report, Judith. Glad to know you liked it. 🙂

  20. Lasse September 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Recipe tested. Very nice and delicious, but not quite foie gras 🙂

    A couple of notes and questions:

    1) I used salted butter, so I was very careful with the added salt. The mousse turned out a bit a too bland, so next time (and there will be a next time) there will be more. Luckily it’s easier to fix this way 🙂

    2) My mousse ended up a lot redder than yours. Did I skip some preprocessing step or are there different kinds of livers?

    3) The mousse could use a bit of extra depth. The next time I’ll definitely add cognac. Or butter. Or both.

  21. Leela September 4, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Lasse – Thank you so much. Very, very helpful feedback. Not quite foie gras is correct. Darn close for a liver mousse, though, I hope. 😉

    I have made, oh, 7-10 batches after this post went up and found myself increase the amounts and number of different flavoring agents along the way. Salt is one of those things that can be reduced or increased to taste, so have fun with it. You may always want to add ground allspice and more pepper. I really love the flavor of allspice in this. I made one batch with added vermouth and that went very well too. Your cognac idea sounds really good, so I will definitely try that next time.

    Colors of chicken liver vary quite greatly. I’ve been getting anything from red to pinkish to yellowish and these have resulted in varying mousse colors as well.

    Would really appreciate you coming back here and let us know how your next batches go. 🙂

  22. Leela September 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    Lasse – correction: “you may also” as opposed to “you may always.”

  23. Lasse September 4, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Ooh, vermouth. Brilliant idea, thanks.

    The best part of the recipe is that it’s so simple (if you manage to keep the cats away from the kitchen while the liver is out) so the threshold for experimenting is low.

  24. Matias April 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    First time I made it, it was very nice and good! Second time…the “pate” was nice too but the gelee wouldnt turn enough green! I used frozen dill…not good! I dismissed it and went for…is it called stock!? Chickenstock…dont know how it gonna be…not beautiful as green but im sure its going to taste good…

  25. Leela April 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Matias – Freezing causes Chlorophyll degradation; that’s why the frozen dill didn’t give you enough green. Chicken stock would be fine. You don’t get any color, but you’ll sure get additional savory flavor to make up for it. I’m sure it’s going to taste good too.

  26. J May 3, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    I can’t wait to try this recipe especially with the green gelee layer on top. What is at the center of your fennel fronds? I’m making this for my mom for mother’s day! I hope it turns out well. Serving it with pear jam and crusty bread.

  27. Leela May 3, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    J – Ha. It’s been a while; I almost forgot what that was. It’s actually a fresh cranberry half, cut side down.

  28. Anonymous July 8, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Indeed the best and most beautiful chicken liver mousse. Out of this world, totally morish, paired with your incredible fennel and green apple confiture. A great introduction to your morish blog! Many thanks from the UK.

  29. Anonymous July 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Leela, if you were to cook the liver mixture sous-vide (as opposed to the bain-marie), what temperature and time would you go for?

    Thank you,

  30. Admin July 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Daniel – It’s never occurred to me to cook this sous vide, so I have no idea. Sorry.

    Anyone want to help, Daniel?

  31. kay April 10, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! it’s definitely a keeper! I tried this today and it is deeeelicious! 🙂

  32. Chef Hannah July 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    In response to the sous vide question, I would cook it at 275-300 degrees or whatever the equivalent is on the machine you use. Assuming you want your pate cooked through, which is what I tend to prefer given that it is chicken after all, you want to cook it to 165 degrees. Personally I think the sous vide method would be excellent, although the presentation could be iffy. You could try to mold it into a cylinder before cooking it. Good luck!

    • Mark. June 13, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      I made this (without the aspic) sous vide, or strictly speaking not under vacuum but sealed in a Ziploc quart bag, double what was made here. It was my first sous-vide attempt. I put it in a 150F bath for 16 hours (it broke the surface a bit and I worried), turning about halfway through. Disconcertingly pink inside but thoroughly cooked and delicious. Used brown shallots instead of onions.

    • Dominique July 30, 2014 at 9:33 am #

      A good idea, that cylinder.

      Sous videing the mixture in one of those white 10x6cm souffle ramekins could work. That is a cylinder. My PolyScience iPad app tells me that, for a cylinder of poultry with a 100mm diameter, at an FDA suggested 74 C water temperature (more than ‘well done’), one will need a cooking time of close to 9 hours and 31 seconds. With an initial temperature of 5 C, out of a cold fridge. That will cook and pasteurise the ‘faux gras’ to the core, according to the app.

      A querry for ‘foie gras’ with the same parameters (a 100mm diameter ramekin, 5 C initial core temperature) returns 9 hours and 11 minutes cooking time at a water temperature of 71.1 C. That will also cook and pasteurise the ‘faux gras’ to the core, according to the app.

      Let me test that a revert.

  33. Tyler August 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    I made this recipe recently, but substited the butter with rendered chicken fat. Really enjoyed making this recipe!