Best of Pittsburgh Sammy: Chicken Liver Mousse & Bacon, Thin Man-Style
Some serious Pittsburgh food adventure vibes hopped the bus to NYC when my boyfriend Brant’s parents, Joyce and Tim, came in from PA this past weekend for a 3-day family hang and culinary tour of the city.
Day 1: Sandwich Surprise time! Over the past few months, Joyce had mailed me a couple newspaper clippings for inspiration, including a “Sandwiches That Stack Up” article from the February 7, 2013 Post-Gazette. I was waiting for their visit to pluck something from the recipeless, best-sandwiches-of-Pittsburgh list.
What jumped out at me was the “Most Inspired” sandwich, created by The Thin Man restaurant owned by Dan and Sherri Leiphart in the ‘Burgh’s Strip district.
The article called the chicken liver mousse “a decadent spread Mr. Leiphart confirmed is made with caramelized onions, apples and ‘a tremendous amount of butter’ … finished with a stack of bacon.” Sounded delish, even though I’m not a liver lover. The Thin Man’s succinct menu description — “Chicken liver mousse, local bacon, frisee, red wine vinaigrette, baguette” — reinforced the YUM echoing in my head.
Here’s my spin on the Thin Man:
I made a creamy chicken liver mousse based on Alton Brown’s recipe, except I:
*Caramelized the onions before cooking the fruit
*Used twice as much butter, but less heavy cream
*Added pear along with the chopped apple
*Subbed in marjoram for thyme, freshly ground pink peppercorns for white pepper, Himalayan pink sea salt for regular salt, and Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir nonalcoholic grape juice for brandy
(You can scroll down for the full recipe of my version.)
Don’t have much time? Just buy premade chicken liver mousse or terrine.
As for the rest of the Thin Man Sandwich, I went with arugula because we already had it in our fridge and I don’t lovee frisee, and I dressed that in Giada De Laurentiis’s red wine vinaigrette, and served it on the same Artisan Rolls from my Zihuatanejo sandwich.
(Please ignore the pumpernickel marble roll here — that’s what I used for the test batch, and it was equally delicious, but I forgot to snap shots of the actual Sandwich Surprise sammies.)
“I rate this ‘Perfect,'” said Tim. “I liked the chicken liver mousse and the crispiness of the bacon, and the bread was very good.”
“It was fabulous,” said Joyce. “I don’t even like chicken livers, but the chicken liver mousse was delicious. The bacon puts it over the top. Five out of five stars!”
Fwiw, Brant and I also loved it, and I plan to make some more for myself when lunch rolls around today. Thanks again to Joyce and the Leipharts.
As for the rest of our food tour, Day 2 was all about Chopped: We brunched with my dad Abe and Uncle Pablo at Marc Murphy’s Landmarc, where we especially liked the salad niçoise, the homemade caramels and the spicy tomato dip for the calamari. They put us at the spaceship pod table:
Then we had a soul-satisfying dinner at Scarpetta; must-gets include the Spring Onion Soup with young herbs, asparagus and mushrooms, Black Farfalle with lobster and basil breadcrumbs, the Short Rib & Bone Marrow Agnolotti, and especially the beyond dark and fudgy Amedei Chocolate Cake …
On Day 3, we hit Smorgasburg in Dumbo. Highlights included Buttermilk Channel (the closest I’ve found to the perfect crunch consistency of Popeye’s Chicken (yeah, I said it); Brooklyn Soda Works (the apple ginger, lemon thyme, and rhubarb & thai basil pulls were refreshing and flavorful); and S’more Bakery (those mini marshmallow sammies are legit).
Plenty of fodder for future Sandwich Surprises. Black maple vinegar, anyone?
Want a Sandwich Surprise of your own? Just follow my Twitter account, like my Facebook page and/or subscribe to my blog here, and then comment, post or tweet to me. If I’m in your area (I do road trip it sometimes) or if you’re taking a trip to New York City, you could be surprised with a sammy soon!
CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE
1 lb. chicken livers, cleaned (remove the fatty, stringy, greenish bits and any dark veins you see)
Enough organic milk to cover the livers for a pre-cook soak
4 T. unsalted organic butter
2 c. chopped organic onion
1/2 c. chopped organic Granny Smith apple
1/2 c. chopped organic Packham pear
1 t. chopped fresh marjoram
1/4 t. ground pink peppercorns
1/2 t. Himalayan pink sea salt
1/4 c. Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir nonalcoholic grape juice (you can use Brandy)
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1.5 to 2 lbs. organic bacon
For the dressing (recipe here):
Organic red wine vinegar
1 organic lemon
Organic olive oil
Cost: The mousse ran about $11 for enough to make 24+ servings of the spread alone. I already had the pink peppercorns, pink sea salt and the grape juice, though. Six servings of bacon, arugula and vinaigrette came to about another $15.50, and if you make the bread, that’s $3.25 or so (it might cost more if you buy them).
I soaked the cleaned livers in milk to draw out the strong liver taste.
I sautéed the onions with the butter in a large frying pan over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until they were caramelized. Then I added the marjoram, chopped fruit and cooked that, covered, until the fruit was softened.
Next, I drained the livers and added them to the pan, removing the lid and upping the heat to medium. I cooked them until they were firm, mostly grey, but slightly pink inside.
Then I took the pan off the stove to let the livers cool, and hand-whipped the heavy cream to medium peaks in the meantime. (Wow is that tough when you have no arm strength.)
Once the livers cooled, I added the salt, pepper and Pinot Noir grape juice and puréed it in a food processor. You’re supposed to chill it before folding in the whipped cream, but I spaced on that. Luckily, the liver puree was cool enough so the whipped cream didn’t lose its fluff-making power. Then I chilled the liver purée.
Come sammy time, I fried up all the bacon and split the Artisan Rolls and toasted them. Then I dressed the arugula with the vinaigrette and tossed the leaves to evenly coat them.
On the bottom half of the rolls, I made beds of arugula about 4 leaves thick, then placed 2 strips of bacon, cut in half, on each. I spread the chicken liver mousse on the top halves, then perched those on the bacon. Super snacky!