Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making Paté

 Every year I like to have something different for the Christmas Eve menu chez nous. I'm experimenting with Family Traditions, as we all tend to do, and a festive Christmas Eve Supper always sounds so promising. Seafood features prominently, and this year was no exception: we had oyster soup, thick and creamy with a drizzle of tarragon-mint pesto, served over crispy fresh  puff pastry squares. We also had home-smoked salmon with capers and crispy garlic slivers and thyme-scented baguettes. I usually try to have a paté of some sort squeezed in there because we all adore the stuff. In fact, I have to wrap it up carefully and hide it in the back of the fridge so FDPG can't snack on it morning, noon, and night, thus depriving the rest of us of the pleasure of its company.

Last year I made a baked paté. The recipe required chicken livers, bacon, juniper berries and lots of black pepper, all ground up to a manageable but chunky thickness. It was grainy and perfectly, delectably delicious. It also tended to fall apart when sliced and slipped onto a cracker and popped into one's mouth (in between moments of Christmas levity, as one does) and so, as I observed my Less Adventurous At Eating Awkward Food In Public friends struggling during last year's Christmas party, I resolved to try a creamier, spreadable version this year.

I used this recipe (click on this link). I didn't have any shallots or madeira so I substituted a small onion and a large glass of brandy. You will note from the photo at left that large quantities of butter are involved. This is what gives the meat its creaminess, so be forewarned and don't eat the entire bowl in one sitting. Don't eat the entire bowl by YOURSELF, I mean. I use unsalted butter, because I like the taste better. Salted butter tastes overly salty to me.

It's pretty easy to make, so if you're like me: you love it but hate splashing out on the good (and often horribly expensive) stuff, gather together some chicken livers and try this. I will add one caveat before you source your chicken livers: being that the liver is the organ that filters the blood and so is intimately involved in any drug use the body may indulge in, make sure you get livers from birds that haven't been subjected to lots of hormones or antibiotics. Here in BC we're lucky that poultry is always hormone (and often antibiotic) free.

 Don't forget to sample the brandy extensively. Quality control and all, you know.
 Just don't do what I did and tilt the pan over the burner in the hopes of reducing the brandy a little quicker, particularly if you have a gas stove like I do, because you will LIGHT THE ENTIRE PAN ON FIRE, like I did. If you have enough brandy in the pan, like I did, it will result in a terrific panful of giant blue flames.

This will ensure the immediate presence of your husband, who will think you are not safe left alone in a kitchen with alcohol and matches, despite your protestations that we'll all have lots of amusing memories to look back on one day. He might make tart remarks to the effect of "burning down the house is HYSTERICAL, I agree" but ignore him.

The finished product. It's oddly pourable at first, what will all that soft butter and brandy, but not to worry: just find a dish that suits your fancy and pour it in, then leave it to sit for a few hours while it turns to a creamy, thick, perfectly fabulous paste.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cold Weather Ramblings

 It's been cold here for the past few days. Noticeably cold. Cold so that even the Boy Who Wears Shorts All Year Long has taken to wearing jeans once in a while. The only real upside to all this cold is that it's sunny most days.

Here is a picture of a chocolate cake. A chocolate cake I gave away. It was part of a fundraiser at Max's school. FDPG and Dominic couldn't figure out why I would spend SO MUCH TIME baking and icing a chocolate cake that they would not be eating. I might have wondered the same thing once or twice, but it was still fun packaging it up in a proper cake box and taking it into the school.
 The last of the summer tomatoes. Look at them: they look so fresh, don't they? You'd never know that they were green nubs on the vines that I hauled up at summer's end, destined for the compost bin. They've been sitting in the window frame on the deck for the past 3 months, ripening veeerrrrryyyyy slowly.
 Mason bee cocoons sitting in a bleach solution. This is the time to open up your bee houses and clean them out. I was rather Darwinian about the idea of cleaning bee cocoons at first, but after watching several generations of bees get chewed to tragic extinction by mites, I now do the Excavate & Rinse Then Bleach routine. It's neither fun nor amusing, but the survival rate is significant enough to keep me at it. In fact, you'll be surprised what survives the bleach routine. I've got a portable little magnifier, so I can see them all. Weird AND gross.
 With all the cold weather we've been having, Toffee has been spending more and more time indoors, mostly hiding in out of the way places where we can't find him and toss him outside. Today he spent approximately 7 and a half minutes in the Great Outdoors. Three of them scratching at the door to be let in again.