I love good food. Not food that’s manufactured or mass produced in a factory, but a dish set before me after being assembled by hand from quality ingredients. Yes, it’s true: I’m a food snob. Homemade has always been my preferred source of meals since forever. When I was a kid back in the sixties my Mom worked outside the home and dinners were still prepared from scratch, cookies were homemade, and store bought cereal was to be eaten with restraint because it was expensive. Given that background, it’s easy to understand why I grew up to be a crunchy person who preferred to make yogurt, pasta, bread, soups, or anything, rather than buy it prepared in a package. So, it’s not my fault that I’m a food snob. Blame Mom. Sounds normal, eh?
With time and exposure to the explosion of cook books and food blogs over the past couple decades, the interest in traditional and ethnic cooking, as well as a growing support for sustainable eating, my choices in food have become both diverse and simple. Which seems to be a contradiction, but consider something like a terrine: a chopped meat loaf of sorts that has its origins as a simple peasant food but is included now on charcuterie platters in restaurants. I’ve come to love this sort of food, both because it appeals to my taste buds, and a belief that it’s wasteful to throw away the parts of an animal that are not the premium cuts we’ve come to expect we deserve. As it happens, the parts we have traditionally thrown away are often the most nutritious. For instance, chicken livers. The vast majority of people who buy a chicken that actually includes the giblets, often throw them away, give them to the dog, or rarely cook them up in a broth to flavour a gravy.
When I get my hands on chicken livers–I usually buy them by the pound at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market–they get turned into paté. I’ve made this several times trying to get it just right, and this is the best yet. This version was made with duck fat instead of butter and/or cream. It’s important when you are preparing the chicken livers that they be washed and then dried well before adding to the skillet.
- 1 lb. chicken livers, washed and patted dried
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt & pepper
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 6-12 tbsp. duck fat (you may substitute butter)
- 1 tsp sherry, port, calvados (your choice)
- Rinse the chicken livers and pat dry. Cut off any white connective tissues (scissors are ideal for this).
- Prepare and assemble the other ingredients. Have ready a food processor and bowls for the finished paté.
- Melt 1-2 tbsp duck fat in skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onions and cook until soft and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and apple. Cook this mixture until apple is tender. If you need to add water to prevent sticking, then do so. Remove mixture to plate.
- Add chicken livers to skillet and cook slowly for five minutes or until brown on outside and pink inside. If you overcook the livers they will go grainy, so be careful.
- Remove from heat and stir in onion & apple mixture - let stand for 5 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until it breaks down.
- Add duck fat (or butter) in chunks, and blend well, then add sherry.
- Pour into dishes and cover with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.
- I've indicated a range of measure for the duck fat--I used 8 tbsp plus two for cooking the onions.
- Some recipes call for the paté to be rubbed through a sieve but I have found it makes little difference. I believe if the livers are cleaned of connective tissue there shouldn't be any need for this.
- This can be frozen if well wrapped. I've done this successfully and thawed in refrigerator before serving.