For more food-related blogs from Georgia Pellegrini, check out her website www.GeorgiaPellegini.com.
If I was sent to that proverbial island and there was one food I could take, it would be liver mousse.
I can hear your collective gasp. Most people are reviled by the stuff, but I call it God's pudding. It's slightly sweet and very rich and I could eat it endlessly.
It serves as the basis for all kinds of internationally popular and unpopular foods — depending on who you ask. Foie gras for example, beloved in France, was for a time, banned in Chicago. Then there's liver and onions in Britain, Leberwurst in Germany, fish liver sashimi in Japan, and the Jewish food turned manner of speech, chopped liver.
I like it not just because it tastes good, but also because it is a way to turn an often overlooked part of the animal we take from the woods into something delicious.
Some people avoid liver because they think it stores toxins. But the liver doesn't store toxins, it neutralizes them. It does store important vitamins, minerals and nutrients though. I would also argue that the liver from the woods has probably processed far fewer toxins than a domestic animal, so it's better for you.
When harvesting a liver, take a good look at it first to make sure it looks "healthy." It should be free of spots, and not enlarged or discolored. This deer liver, for example, is just right. If you're going to buy domestic liver, buy it from a local farmer who raises his animals on pasture. Anything from a large factory farm you should avoid.
The underlying sweetness in liver lends itself well to other subtly sweet foods, like shallots and onions, or red wine and port. And a dash of vinegar balances it to prevent it from becoming too cloying. Give this recipe a try and tell me I haven't made you a convert.
What is your desert island food?
4 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 cups livers (duck, chicken, or venison for example)
2 cups shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon half n' half or cream
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
½ cup red or white wine
¼ cup port
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
Cider vinegar, to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1. Sear livers on both sides just until browned then remove them from the pan.
2. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and caramelize. Season with salt and pepper to help release the juices. Add more oil as necessary.
3. Add livers back to the pan, then add wine and port; cover partially with lid and simmer until liquid has reduced by 2/3.
4. Let cool for a few minutes, but not completely, then puree in a blender with cream and cold butter. Season with salt and pepper and transfer it into a bowl.
5. Here you can pass it through a fine mesh strainer if you want it especially silky.
6. Then season with balsamic vinegar and cider vinegar to taste.
7. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve with toast or crackers and pickles.
MAKES 3 CUPS
Editor's note: Georgia's passion for good food began at an early age, on a boulder by the side of a creek as she caught her trout for breakfast. After Wellesley and Harvard -- and a brief stint on Wall Street -- she decided to leave the cubicle world behind and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Upon graduating at the top of her class, she worked in two of America's best restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as well as in one of the premier destination restaurants in Provence, France, La Chassagnette. It was there that she decided it was time to really get at the heart of where our food comes from and head to the source -- Mother Nature. She bought a shotgun and set her sites on the cutting edge of culinary creativity intent on pushing the boundaries of American gastronomy, from field to stream to table.
Her new book, "Food Heroes: Tales of 16 food artisans preserving tradition" will be coming out this year. She currently roams the world, hunting, tasting good food and meeting the good people who make it. You can read more about her work at www.GeorgiaPellegrini.com.