At Bon Temps in Los Angeles, Lincoln Carson serves chicken liver gougères—pastry puffs that are small in stature but big on chicken goodness. He flavors classic pâte à choux with chicken bouillon for extra umami flavor. Once baked and cooled, the velvety mousse gets piped into the bottom, and each ball is drizzled with Pedro Ximenez vinegar.
- Drain chicken livers, and make sure all or most of the connective tissue is removed. Gently rinse in cold water and drain again. In a bowl, cover the chicken livers with the cold milk. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.
- While livers marinate, in a pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and sweat shallots and thyme. Deglaze with brandy and reduce to a glossy consistency. Add cream, bring to a simmer, and reduce by half. Remove from heat and chill.
- Drain chicken livers from milk marinade and pat dry. Spread on a plate or baking sheet over paper towels and sprinkle salt evenly over all the livers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 1-3 hours.
- Remove livers from refrigerator and pat dry again. Heat remaining oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add livers to sear until well browned on the surface, turning each liver to sear all sides. Remove as soon as they are browned but still medium-rare and pink in the middle. Set aside to cool.
- Once cooled, put livers in a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth consistency. Add shallot-thyme cream mixture and continue to puree until silky smooth. Add room-temperature butter in stages while continuing to emulsify.
- Transfer to a chilled bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the mousse so no air touches it. Chill in refrigerator until gougères are ready.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a pot over medium heat, combine water, milk, butter, sugar, chicken powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Add flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the flour is worked into the dough.
- Cook on medium-high heat until a starchy skin forms on the bottom of the pot. Mash the dough against the sides and bottom of the pan, allowing the flour to cook and the dough to dry out. The dough is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, and it's shiny and glossy and thick.
- Move mixture to an electric stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until steam dissipates. Slowly add blended eggs, 1/3 at a time, allowing to combine. Check the dough before adding the last third to test thickness with a spatula. It should be smooth and supple enough to form a "v" when dropped. Add more beaten egg as needed. Scrape the bowl and paddle, then mix for another minute on low speed.
- Using a pastry bag with a plain tip, pipe 3/4" diameter spheres onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, watching for the choux to puff up into spheres. At that point, turn down the oven to 350 F and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes, or until the gougères are a deep golden brown and feel hollow when picked up. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- To fill puffs, place chicken liver mousse into a pastry bag with a small diameter plain tip (3-4 mm). With the tip of a paring knife, pierce a small hole in the bottom of the puffs. Insert the tip of the piping bag into the puff and fill each puff individually. Drizzle a few drops of aged balsamic or Pedro Ximenez vinegar on the top of the puff, and garnish it with finely minced chives. Serve immediately.