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.


Heather said...

When I saw your photo of butter being properly weighed (on an actual scale) I immediately began to think of you as Very Professional Quite Proper Cook...and felt perhaps my rather "relaxed" manner of cooking might not measure up to your standards. So, I had a very good giggle as I continued reading.

BTW 3 sentences into your post and already wondering how a person gets an invite to that feast.

Also laughing because I'm sure my husband would think it isn't safe to leave me anywhere with alcohol and matches. ;-)

sheila said...

I do like a good scale; there is something so precise and tidy about weighing ingredients, as opposed to measuring them in cups and teaspoons. Isn't that an almost ungodly amount of butter? I checked the recipe three times before I could bring myself to use it all, because it seemed a tad on the WILDLY EXTRAVAGANT side. Funny thing is, British recipes use weighed measures fairly consistently, which got me using that scale more and more. There's nothing like a nicely calibrated machine, lol.

I'm giving you a formal, unexpireable, invite right now, lol.