Thursday, April 12, 2007

Chicken Liver Pate

I seem to have changed butchers for the moment. My normal guy can't get in some of the more....arcane dead animal items I'm looking for. And evryone I as recommends the same place. So a quick trip into Moore street, and FX Buckley's butchers, netted me some oxtail(€5.99 each, cut up and bagged), a half kilo of chicken livers(€5.99 a kilo), some more ham hocks (€1.50 each), some belly of pork, a couple of beef marrow bones - a snip at 3 for a Euro, some trotters(3 for €1.50), and an answer to where you get pigs cheeks. You don't. You buy the whole head. For €5.

A bit bulky to cycle with. So I didn't. But I can use the cheeks, the ears, and the snout for recipes I have already. And I think I could make brawn with the remains of the head, or cut it up for sausage meat perhaps. Hrmm. Either that, or I stuff the butchered head, lipsticked lips, and swathed in a feather boa, in the toilet of some unexpecting and terminally surprised friend, ala Hunter S Thompson. A fitting tribute to the dead.

The meat doesn't seem to be as good quality as my regular guys though. The chicken livers were a little too wet to be perfectly fresh, the fat on the bellys is not quite good enough....still, it's serviceable enough.

Anyway. Time to take it to the mat with this. Offal. A fine thing.Tasty, unhygienic, messy. Slightly slimy. The stuff of life, in other words. And the essential ingredient in the finest pate you are ever likely to taste outside of France. I have a batch sitting in my fridge, the taste deepening as we speak. This recipe is for a rough pate, which I think helps bulk out the taste with a suitable, robust, inescapably rustic texture. If you want a finer texture, blast the cooked liver in a food processor.

This recipe is adapted from The Silver Spoon, bible of Italian mothers from Cuomo to Cagliari to Palermo and back. I've given the whole original, and put my adaptations in brackets.

  • 5 oz butter
  • 400 g chicken livers, trimmed
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped very fine
  • fresh thyme, (or fresh rosemary)
  • (2 fresh bay leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon of brandy (I used two)
  • 2 tablespoons of double cream, whipped (I used 4)
  • 2 tablespoons of Marsala (I used the same quantity of a robust Spanish Rioja I had opened)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste (I underseasoned with both)

To clean the livers....hrmm.....

Theres more than one school of thought. Generally, I quickly wash the livers in water, and pat dry. Some people marinade them for a couple of hours in milk and salt and then wash and dry. Most books don't suggest going this far.

When you handle the liver, gently spread it out on your hand. You should be able to see the liver as being comprised of two lobes. Technically, you don't want to pierce these lobes, as it makes cooking difficult (separating them is fine though). But you do want to get rid off all that white, sinew type stuff attached to them. Remove any veins or green material also. Best use a paring knife. I generally wind up piercing the lobes by accident. It just means being extra careful to cook them thoroughly. Or, being genuinely French about it, cooking them till pink in the centre. (This can be a tad dangerous from the bacteria point of view).

The livers will vary greatly in colour. From dark red to pale pink. This is normal, and fine. If the livers are off, well, you'll smell it. Perfectly fresh livers should be dry to the touch, and shiny. But that just doesn't happen in most Dublin butchers.

Take half the butter, and melt in a water bath. Reserve. Melt the rest of the butter in a cast Iron pan, and saute the onions, liver and herbs over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Silver spoon recommends 2 minutes. Sprinkle with Marsala (or, in my case, Rioja) and cook for 3 more minutes - this time will vary, depending on your taste. 3 minutes will probably give you pink in the middle livers - good for taste, excellent for texture, and yummy for bacteria. Not normally a problem, but hey...too much cooking time, and the texture will spoil). Take the pan off the heat, and chop the livers( I left the juice in the pan, took the livers out with a slotted spoon, and deglazed the pan with the cooking liquor, and some brandy). Chop the livers as fine, or as roughly as you like. The texture should be at least spreadable. Recombine the cooking liquor, and liver,and stir in the cooled, melted butter, and then fold in the cream (add the brandy first if you haven't already).

Slap in a bowl, ramekin, or your preferred serving dish, and chill in the fridge for 6 hours. If, as is possible, the cream doesn't initially combine well with the pate, take it out of the fridge after 30 mins, and fold again - it's easier when the pate has slightly set.

Serve on toasted bread, or buttermilk brown.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I absolutely love chicken liver pate, could eat it just on it's own. I love it on toast but also sometimes have it on Scottish oat cakes. I also tried oxtail for the first time recently. I braised it and served with gnocchi.