In which our hero decides to experiment with mixed results.

It was hard to make it look even this pretty.

The word mousse, not mouse as in the little hairy rodent (that second “s” is pretty important) is most commonly associated with chocolate; as in “Chocolate Mousse”.  It’s a pretty common dessert and can be found everywhere from your local greasy spoon to the world’s most high wattage celebrity-chef populated, Zagat rated, haute cuisine eateries.

But I was a little sick of desserts after last month so I decided that I couldn’t possibly do another dessert.  Hence began the search for the savoury mousse.  These are also found at high-brow michelin-rated locales, but rarely if ever at the local mom ‘n’ pop joint, so the recipes are harder to locate. For the first time since beginning this blog, which I can’t believe and simply have no excuse for except that my kid buried it under a bunch of other books on the bookshelf thereby causing me to forget that I owned it (sacre bleu!), I went to my Larousse Gastronomique, the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia of Food. I love Larousse.  The recipes are short, no-nonsense and written for people who know what they are doing (i.e. not terribly exact or detailed because you’re just supposed to know anyway).  The pictures are really pretty.

I might be alone in my opinion of Larousse’s recipes, at least insofar as I appreciate their simplicity and tendency to vagueness and ambiguity. While I can’t claim to actually be one of those highly educated chefs who does, in fact, know what they are doing, I do have a certain tendency to … not follow directions to the letter.  So Larousse’s “open-to-interpretation” versions are generally perfect for me.

Larousse says that to make a chicken mousse, you do the same thing that you would do for a fish mousse, but you use poached chicken instead and season it with some curry and nutmeg.  What it says for a fish mousse is that you mash the meat up with a mortar, mix in some egg whites, press it all through a sieve, refrigerate for 2 hours, put the bowl in an ice bath and use a wooden spoon to stir in whipping cream, pour into a lightly greased mold, bake at 375 in a bain marie for 20 minutes and let sit for 10 minutes before turning it out and serving it warm with an appropriate sauce.  I am really not paraphrasing very much at all.  This is why I love Larousse.

What follows is my own variation on this basic recipe for Chicken Mousse – that is, this is what I actually did interspersed with comments about what I would do differently next time [in italics because this is important stuff if you are going to try this yourself].

Curried Poached Chicken Thighs

1. Sauté two finely minced shallots in 1 tbsp. each of olive oil & butter until translucent.

2. Add 1 large clove garlic, minced, 1 stick celery, minced, 1 medium carrot, minced.

3. Season with s & p, chopped fresh basil & fresh parsley, 1 tsp. each of dried tarragon & oregano, & 2 tbsp madras curry powder.

3. Sauté all until beginning to caramelize, stirring constantly to keep spices from sticking to bottom of pan and burning. Deglaze pan with dry white wine (I didn’t have any so used dry cream sherry which isn’t so bad).

4.  Add 1 med. tomato & 1 small tart apple, diced.  Cook 2 – 3 minutes & add 1 – 2 c. water or stock.  Boil moderately until liquid reduced by 1/4 (about 3 minutes).

5. Add 4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, turn heat down to simmer and cover pot (in other words, poach the chicken); cook ten minutes & then turn chicken over, spoon sauce over top, cover & cook for another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

6. Taste to check seasoning.  If you used water, not stock, you may find, like me, that you need more salt & curry powder.

My version of the mousse:

7.  Toss chicken thighs & veggies into food processor & blend, adding liquid from pot as necessary to ensure the mixture blends easily.  [This is what I would have done differently – it didn’t really need the extra liquid because there was already a lot of liquid from the veggies – I should have just reserved ALL the liquid & then reduced it as per step 8 below].

8. Reduce remaining liquid until it is thick & almost sticking to bottom of the pot.  Add dry white wine (I ran to the store to get some because I needed whipping cream & eggs anyway) & reduce again until sauce is thickened, add to mixture & blend until smooth.  [Again – I should have reduced it more so that I had less liquid].

10.  Add 3 egg whites, one at a time, while blending.  [Even if you reduced all the extra liquid like I have suggested, you probably would want one more egg white than this].

11.  This is the point where Larousse says to mash stuff through a sieve – but I don’t have a sieve so I just left the food processor on for an extra long time & hoped for the best.

12.  Refrigerate 2 hours.

13. While the chicken mixture is refrigerating – make a Chanterelle Mushroom sauce: Sauté minced shallot in butter/olive oil until transclucent; add two large handfuls of finely chopped Chanterelles & sauté until brown bits are starting to stick to bottom of pan; deglaze with dry white wine (be generous) & reduce until liquid almost gone; add heavy cream (or whole milk) – about 1/2 c. – and reduce until almost gone; add more heavy cream (or whole milk) & cook until thickened; s & p to taste.

14.  Put bowl with chicken mixture in an ice bath & use wooden spoon to stir in 500 mL heavy cream.

14. Pour mixture into plain lightly greased mold & bake in a bain marie at 375 for 20 minutes.

15. After 20 minutes is up, check & decide the whole thing looks too sloshy & put back in for 10 more minutes.

16. At 33.27 minutes, decide you are pushing it & take the molds out of the oven.  Let sit for 10 minutes.

17. Nervously examine first mold & realize that, although no longer sloshy, there is a suspicous amount of liquid still lurking in the pan.  Dump it out onto the cutting board for a picture anyway.  Look aghast at the result.

*sigh*

18. Use the other, non-yet-turned-out mold to attempt to plate something for a picture.  Realize that Larousse did NOT advise to put all that poaching liquid into the mix & should have compensated for same by reducing liquids more & by adding more egg whites (see notes in recipe above).

19. Serve on top of crostini.  Add Chanterelle Mushroom sauce & garnish with balsamic roasted red onions & braised swiss chard.  Eat it all up & decide that despite it’s entirely unsuccessful mousse-i-ness, it is damn tasty!  Will make again with less liquid & more eggs.

Chalk it all up to a learning experience. xoxo B.

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