Faux Gras with Shitake and Cognac

Update: I was in the Wall Street Journal for this Faux Gras recipe

I bought Michel Richard’s Happy in the Kitchen book a few months back, and while I can gleefully tell you that its my favorite eye-candy boyfriend cookbook, I have only attempted to make one thing from the book, for fear that I could never replicate the dish and please HiK. My dish would just be a sad version of what was on the page, fully disappointing HiK, who would probably tsk-tsk me and leave me for a more competent cook.  I am totally content to just have HiK please me and wow me with the lovely recipes, inventive techniques and lush food porn.

Yes, it is entirely a one-sided relationship and I am ok with that…well…that is, until this past weekend.

For Memorial Day, I wanted to make the Chicken Faux Gras again, which is a creamy pate spread made with chicken liver and a very clever play on words (real foie gras is made from expensive duck liver.) Michel Richard describes this as, “Absolutely the creamiest thing on earth. If you don’t tell people what it is, they will think it is Foie Gras and that you are an extravagant host.” The last 2 times that I made this recipe, I had followed the directions exactly. I even measured exactly, timed with a stopwatch and never deviated from HiK one iota. But today, I felt a little mischievous. “Hmmmm…..what if I added shitake mushrooms, chopped parsley and Cognac?” Of course, I didn’t say this too loudly and I quickly put HiK back on the shelf and snuck into the kitchen.

Yes. I cheated….and the faux gras tasted SO good. I will continue to cheat on HiK and feel absolutely no guilt

I showered my fling with praise, affection and a Perfect Loaf of French Bread French Bread.

At 1:30am, I even tiptoed to the kitchen for a quickie sneaky snack. The best part??…my husband even watched!

Faux Gras with Shitake and Cognac

Secrets to this dish:

1. Truth be told, this Faux Gras is creamy, rich and addictive….but it doesn’t replicate the silky, fattiness of the real Foie Gras.  It is a GREAT substitute (and affordable – $4 ingredients vs. $70 a pound) and I feel better eating this than thinking about the horrible things that Foie Gras producers do to the geese and ducks.

2. When cleaning the livers, remove the dark bloody spots and the white, thin connective membrane. Notice that I didn’t have any photos of prep work. This is because raw liver is not pleasant to look at. Just remember not to lick your fingers, ya know?!

3. While I enjoyed the creamy smooth original version, I was really yearning for a little more texture and flavor, thus I added Cognac and finely chopped Shitake. If I had truffles, I would have used those. But I don’t and I can only dream about it. Don’t have Shitake? Use a different mushroom. 4. This really was an easy recipe. It only took 30 minutes of real work in the kitchen, but several hours to chill. You can spend $8 for a small 5 oz. slice of pate at your gourmet grocer or $3 in chicken livers and mushrooms to make it yourself and feed a party of 20.

Parsley Gelee

I’d suggest not skipping the gelee – the cucumber water is refreshing and delightful. I am sure to find other interesting uses for the cucumber gelee.

Faux Gras with Shitake and Cognac Recipe

Inspired by Happy in the Kitchen. You can make this up to 3 days before serving. You'll need several hours to chill and set the pate, so its best to do it the evening before or early in the day. Makes 4 small 1-cup ramekins or 1 terrine.


The Pate:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature (16oz)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, smushed with a garlic press or grated with microplane grater
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed and any dark spots removed (I also remove the stringy connective membrane)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely diced shitake mushrooms (1/4" cube or smaller)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley 2 tablespoons Cognac

The Parsley Gelee:

  • 1/2 English cucumber cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 - 2 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Saute the Mushrooms: In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the shitake mushrooms and saute for 1 minute, until soft and cooked through. Add chopped parsley. Add Cognac and let simmer for 30 seconds. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  • Cook the Onion: Wash the saucepan and put back on stove. Add 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. When the butter starts bubbling, turn the heat down to low and add the onions. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Add the cream and bring to simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add all of the remaining butter. Stir until melted. Turn off the heat.
  • Puree the Liver: Put livers in a blender. Pulse a few times until the liver becomes a little smoother. Add the onion mixture. Puree on high for 2 minutes until the mousse becomes pale color and totally smooth. Strain the mixture, using the back of a spoon to push through. You should have about 3 cups strained mousse. If you don't have that much, put the solids back in the blender and puree again.
  • Bake the Pate: Add the shitake/cognac mixture into the strained mixture. Stir to incorporate the mushrooms evenly throughout the mousse. Pour into 4 1-cup ramekin dishes. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a large deep baking dish. Make sure the bowls don't touch each other. Carefully pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate to chill. Once it is chilled, you can prepare the gelee.

Now its time to make the Gelee. I did not deviate too much from HiK on this portion.

  • Place cucumber in food processor and process until liquefied. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (or alternatively you can put it in a double thickness cheesecloth and squeeze). You should end up with 1/2 cup of cucumber water.
  • In microwave bowl, combine gelatin and 1/4 cup of cucumber water. Microwave this to just melt the gelatin - but do not allow to boil. Stir. Add lemon juice, sugar, salt and Tabasco and the remaining cucumber water into the bowl. Add the parsley, a tablespoon at a time until the gelee is dense with parsley but the green of the cucumber water is still visable.
  • Remove Faux Gras from refrigerator. Spoon 2 tablespoons of gelee on top of each ramekin. Refrigerator until gelee is set, about 1 hour. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. The Gelee adds a beautiful green contrast to the pate and serves to keep air from touching the Faux Gras (which would oxidize and turn the pate grayish).


Parsley Gelee
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

**Want other recipes from Happy in the Kitchen? Serious Eats has them.
**Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie also made Faux Gras
**In Good Taste Store has a review of the book
**In case you’re stuck in the desert, you can make Ari’s pita bread to along with this **hmmm…maybe next time I make this I’ll make a cranberry gelee instead of cucumber/parsley
**Smear it in a sandwich between 2 waffles a la Brilynn
**Sliced with Molasses gingerbread with candied ginger from La Tartine Gourmande
**or…next time I just make the pate without the gelee and sear them just like I would the real Foie Gras….make a deep, dark cherry-chocolate reduction and maybe it would taste just like the real thing?
**Cookthink just inspired me to make this with my leftover Faux Gras (instead of the pork loin)