Cold Mousse of Chicken and Pistachios

This silky chicken mousse, paired with pistachios, is as easy to prepare as it is delicious. Garnished with a medley of colorful vegetables, it makes an elegant and extravagant presentation.

Yield: 8-10 servings

10 oz. chicken fat, cut into 1/2" pieces
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lg. bay leaf
3/4 tsp. black peppercorns
6 oz. chicken breast, cleaned and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 c. sliced shallots
10 oz. chicken livers, cleaned
1 tsp. salt
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, chopped
2 tbsp. cognac
1/4 c. shelled pistachios

Thin strips of red pepper, chives, green of leeks or scallions, carrot, and radishes

1 lg. egg white
3/4 tbsp. unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. green of leeks, celery, and parsley
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1-1/2 c. chicken stock

Melba toast or black bread

For the mousse:
Cook chicken fat in large skillet over med-high heat until fat is rendered and brown. In a coffee-grinder, process the thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a powder. Add chicken pieces to skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add shallots, liver, spices, salt, and garlic to the skillet. Cook over med. heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove and let cool for 2 minutes.

Transfer contents of skillet to a food processor and emulsify for 30 seconds, until smooth. Add cognac and process until smooth. Push mixture through a food mill, and fold in pistachios. Cover the mousse, and refrigerate until it begins to set firm. Mix until smooth, pack it into a 3-4 c. pâté mold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

To decorate the top of the mousse:
Use the thin strips of vegetables to create a vase filled with flowers or another design. All the greens should be blanched in boiling water for 10-15 seconds and cooled in cold water. Carrots should be blanched for 1 minute.

For the aspic:
In a saucepan, mix the egg white, gelatin, the greens of leeks, celery, and parsley; pepper, salt, and stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until it comes to a boil. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring, and cook 5 seconds. Set aside, off the heat, and let rest undisturbed for 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with wet paper towels. Place over ice, and stir very gently so as to not cause bubbles, until mixture gets syrupy. This is the time to use it. Using a spoon and working quickly, coat the top of the mousse with aspic until the entire surface is covered. Refrigerate until well set.

Serve with Melba toast or black bread.

Recipe courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf, ©2001 Jacques Pépin