There was a time in my life when I didn’t love to cook. Or rather I didn’t yet know that I loved to cook. But I did love to entertain. However, in those days “entertaining” rarely meant a dinner party. Who in their right mind would devote most of an evening to staying at home? Especially when big city camaraderie beckoned. No, in those days “entertaining” meant inviting one or two friends to pop into my tiny studio apartment on the edge of West Hollywood before we went out on a night of youthful carousing. On these nights it was common for me to stop at Trader Joe’s on my way home from work to pick up a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, a gangly baguette, and a slab of Chicken Liver Mousse – or what I preferred to call French pâté.
It felt awfully sophisticated. Chicken Liver Mousse came to symbolize glamorous possibilities. After all, it was on the menus of restaurants I couldn’t afford, but somehow I managed to serve it at home. La-dee-dah!
By my late twenties, I began to realize that I favored the drink at home to the incessant bar-hopping with my lovelorn compatriots. The logical next step was to get a boyfriend and learn to cook.
With Martha as my muse. I taught myself some kitchen basics. Then, with the dawn of online recipes, I was introduced to a world of culinary possibilities. In the 1990s America was leaning away from Julia Child and Jacques Pépin and towards Michael Chiarello and Mario Batali who were showing us that Italian food was more than a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I began to throw sun-dried tomatoes on everything. Pâté, the original gourmet treat in my life, fell out of favor as Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff taught Los Angeles that “fine dining” didn’t always have to mean white tablecloths. Almost overnight the city turned from French classics to regional Italian specialties like risotto. Pâté became something your parents ate on holidays.
Well, what goes around comes around. Once criticized as old-fashioned the chicken liver mousse and pâté from my early days of entertaining has once again found a place on menus, charcuterie boards, and high-end butcher shops around town. It’s shown up again at my house too. Only this time I made it myself.
And why not? It’s rich and creamy and oh so silky smooth. One bite and you’ll know Chicken Liver Mousse (or pâté if you prefer) remains, through the decades, an impressive dish for guests, one that will likely elicit, “Wait a minute, you made that?” Yes, I did.
It’s also French. Very French. I am just days away from leaving for the Greek Island of Sifnos. I’ll be there for three months. So why am I enticing you with my nostalgic memories of the classic Chicken Liver Mousse? Well, before Greece, we’re taking a three-day sojourn in Paris. Just to get acclimated to the European way of life. No wonder my mind has been on French pâté. GREG