Spache the Spatula

Julia Child’s Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes

There were certain things my parents would feed me when I was a child that the ingredients of would conveniently go unknown.

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipeThe kind of stuff that the little kid version of me would have never ever laid a finger on had I known it’s true identity. Things like the most addictive cream cheese spread that just so happened to be loaded with hundreds and hundreds of tiny, pink fish eggs (never knew what the dots were; never asked).

Another on of these secret foods? Pâté (another name for this mousse). I grew up eating the strangely creamy, decadent, and umami-rich stuff spread on hunks of bread and crackers, blissfully unaware that the main ingredient was liver. At the same time, I grew up thinking I most definitely despised liver.

I guess my point is, don’t go freaking out right away because you see a word like “liver” in dish title. While you may think you dislike it, give it a try!

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipe Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipe

For instance, I think it’s probably pretty hard to not love Julia’s mousse. It’s almost impossible for anything blended with butter, cream, and Madeira wine to not taste awesome. It’s silky smooth, delicately spiced, and dang near perfect when paired with something a little fruity.

Yes, these grapes fit the bill. Pickling grapes, and fruit in general, is kinda another one of those things that sounds weird, but is oh-so-right! I flavored the grapes with warm spices like star anise, vanilla bean, cloves, and peppercorns. They’re tart, sweet, and super flavorful.

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipeWhile I think they provide the perfect tangy-sweet counterpoint to the unctuous mousse, the grapes are also super tasty with cheese. I served mine with a gouda-style goat cheese (the very same one I used in this!), and it was superb.

So, even if I didn’t convince you of how delicious the mousse is (by the way can we talk about how un-photogenic liver generally is?! SHEESH, making my job hard!), please make these grapes!

And a little tip about the grapes… the longer you leave the in the fridge, the stronger the flavors will become. After two days they are lightly-flavored and a bit tart. After a week, the flavors get quite concentrated. I find them to be best somewhere in between a couple days and a week 🙂

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipe

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Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes

Yield: about 2 cups mousse and 1 quart grapes


for the mousse:

  • 1 lb chicken livers, (any green or dark brown spots cut away and discarded) chopped into 1/2"-1" segments
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tbsp finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/3 cup Madeira wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • pinch of freshly-ground black pepper
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

for the grapes:

  • 1 lb red, seedless grapes, rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole white peppercorns
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, splint lengthwise
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar


for the mousse:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium skillet until foamy. Add the onion and sauté for a minute. Add in the liver and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add in the Madeira and boil it down rapidly until the liquid is reduced to about 3 tablespoons.
  2. Add everything into the bowl of a food processor. Add in the cream and seasonings and blend until it is a smooth paste. With the motor running, add in the melted butter and blend until combined.
  3. Force the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Add salt or pepper, if necessary.
  4. Pack into a jar or bowl,cover wit plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

for the grapes:

  1. Place the grapes and spices into a 1 quart jar.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, and sugar, and bring to a boil, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the spices and grapes.
  3. Allow to cool to room temperature. Place the lid on and refrigerate for 2-7 days before serving.

mousse recipe slightly adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

grape recipe adapted from here

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes | #recipe


2 Responses to “Julia Child’s Chicken Liver Mousse and Spiced Pickled Grapes”

  1. Sarah@WholeandHeavenlyOven — September 8, 2014 at 5:31 am

    Those pickled grapes seriously look like the best thing ever. Actually this entire dish goes together SO well. —And looks absolutely gorgeous, Rachael!

    • Rachael replied: — September 8th, 2014 @ 11:38 am

      Thank you so much, Sarah!

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