Foie gras, literally, “fat liver,” is a famously French product manufactured by over-feeding geese (traditionally) or ducks, forcing the animal’s liver to more than double in size. The culinary result is a sinfully rich and silky spread that is the piece de resistance of fine dining menus and one of my favorite indulgences.
Other aspects of foie’s sinful nature have been brought to light, not only by animal rights activists, but also by chefs, like Charlie Trotter, who made foie gras (and himself) infamous when he succeeded in having the specialty item legally banned in Chicago. (The law was repealed two years later.)
No matter your ethical position on the stuff, it is certain that a fattened liver differs greatly from its lean counterpart in composition and price. While a lobe of foie gras goes for about $60 per pound, butchers can’t pay people to take the traditional variety off their hands, so they can be bought up for the bargain rate of around $2 dollars a pound.
While nothing can replace the real deal, here’s a recipe for a luscious chicken liver pate that is ethically sound, wallet friendly and perfect for serving a crowd on a frigid February Sunday.
Faux Foie Pate
Fattened in the food processor rather than on the farm, chicken livers bulked up with butter are a worthy imitation of the famously rich foie gras.
2 pounds chicken livers
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
¼ cup Bourbon
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1. Use a sharp paring knife to remove any large, dark veins or sinew from the livers.
2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat; add half of the livers and cook until slightly pink in the center, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once.
3. Add half of the bourbon to the pan and flame it to cook off the alcohol. (Once the bourbon is in the pan, light a match away from the pan, then bring the flame towards the pan just until the contents lights. Be very careful. Remove pan from heat and allow the flames to go out naturally when the alcohol is gone, about 30 seconds.) Transfer cooked livers to the bowl of a food processor and repeat cooking process with a second tablespoon of butter and the remaining bourbon and livers.
4. Pulse livers in the food processor with the heavy cream and thyme leaves, then gradually incorporate the remaining 4 tablespoons cold butter and puree until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pate to a serving dish, like a porcelain crock or ramekins, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
Have Pate, will Travel
One of things I love about pate is how easy it is to transport. Simply fill mason jars with the liver puree, top off with a thin layer of melted butter to prevent a crust from forming, cover and refrigerate. You can serve it straight from the jar!
Something to spread on: my favorites are simple, rustic crostini. Thinly slice a baguette, layer evenly on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in a 350º oven until crisp and light golden, about 12 minutes.
Something pickled: cornichon or gherkins are customary, but I like pickled radish slices or onions.
Something sweet: if you can find a wine jelly, that’s delightful. A touch of cherry jam, fig spread or caramelized onions will also do the trick.
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