Sunday, March 2, 2008

My first pate

There are a lot of people who don't like liver. I suspect it is because there are a lot of people who have never tried liver. As a child, I remember my irish-immigrant grandmother used to order liver and onions if available (that is, when we weren't eating at McDonalds which along with it's never ending supply of fish sandwiches seemed to represent to her all that was good with this country America). I remember my aunt making pate for special occasions - big bowls of the brown squishy stuff slabbed on crusty bread. All the adults ate it. I don't recall liking it back then, but I used to like the smell of it. Earthy and meaty.

Mr. H's grandfather used to make liver and onions as well, and regale with great horror stories of the smell of liver and onions in the house. I never thought it smelled that bad, but I always liked onions.

In Las Vegas one year, I ordered an appetizer of duck ravioli served on seared foi gras at Sensi (don't hate me for the foi gras). Mr. H recoiled at the idea, but I asked him to try one bite. His eyes lit up, and marveled at the texture and taste. He practically ate the whole thing. Over the next few years, I have gotten him to try pate as well. He likes it, kind of (grumpily mumbling "not as good as foi gras") and not enough to cook it at home, so when we had an improptu get together this weekend for a few friends, I ventured to make my first pate. I had it on good authority that at least one other person liked pate, so I was hopeful that it might get consumed.

It was fairly easy to make, and the liver did not smell up the house when cooking (one of my biggest fears. I was concerned that I might throw Mr. H into a full-fledged psychotic breakdown re-living childhood memories of beef liver). It was also well-recieved. I thought it had a bit more of a "liver" aftertaste than I usually like. Plus, it's so damn rich, you can't really eat much of it. The eight of us ate about a quarter of it. I split it into two crocks, so I hope to freeze the other one.
My final rating: Good, but I'm not sure it's worth the calories. So few people actually like liver, and many won't try it because it IS liver, or like my mom, can no longer eat liver due to health reasons. I have a reciped for a lentil pate that tastes remarkably like the real thing, so I'll probably stick to that from now on.

The original recipe came from Epicurious. The below contains my modifications.

Liquored up Pate

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 tbls minced fresh parsley (plus some for garnish)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lb chicken livers, trimmed (I wish I knew what you were supposed to do to trim the liver. That will be my next step)
2 tablespoons whiskey (because I didn't have bourbon)
1 tbls Port wine (because I have a whole bunch of Port)

Melt 1 stick butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and livers and cook, stirring, until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes. Stir in bourbon and port and remove from heat. Purée mixture in a food processor until smooth, then transfer pâté to crock and smooth top.

Melt remaining 1/2 stick butter in a very small heavy saucepan over low heat, then remove pan from heat and let butter stand 3 minutes. Skim froth from butter, then spoon enough clarified butter over pâté to cover its surface, leaving milky solids in bottom of pan.

Chill pâté until butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours more. Garnish with additional parsley. Serve with mustard, and those little french pickles.

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