Friday, April 9, 2010

Recipe: Chicken liver pate with Armagnac and walnuts

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Somehow, I have managed to eat liver twice in the past 24 hours. Perhaps indicative of a trend, both livers were served in small mason jars. The first was a foie gras "parfait" at a chic Santa Monica restaurant. The second was a chicken liver mousse at another chic Santa Monica restaurant. Both were good. But mason jars notwithstanding, neither was as good as the chicken liver pate I make at home.

My favorite chicken liver pate is on the sweet side. It has caramelized onions, some apple in the mix, and finishes with a splash of Armagnac. I add walnuts for texture and body, and bacon for a hint of smoke, and I like it rough. I always make too much, forgetting how rich liver can be and how adamantly my children will refuse to touch it. Luckily, we have neighbors who like liver - you know who you are - and are always open for deliveries.

Note: For a more traditional preparation, you can't do better than the chopped chicken liver and egg from the amazing blog Inside the Kaganoff Kitchen. This one cured my friend Rachel the year she was sicker than hell. It's powerful.

Chicken liver pate with walnuts, bacon and Armagnac

  •     1 cup walnuts
  •     1/3 lb bacon, diced
  •     2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
  •     2 apples, peeled and diced
  •     salt and pepper
  •     1 1/2 lbs chicken livers
  •     1/4 cup Armagnac
  •     3 Tbsp butter, softened
In a large dry pan, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat about 3 minutes, until they are fragrant. Do not walk away, or the nuts are sure to burn and you'll have to start again. Pour the toasted nuts into the bowl of your food processor and set aside - don't grind them now or you'll end up with walnut butter.

In the same pan, cook the diced bacon until the fat begins to render, three or four minutes. Add the onions and apples, sprinkle with salt, and cook a few minutes more. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are cooked through. Turn off the heat and pour the Armagnac into the pan, using it to scrape up some of the brown bits from the bottom. Don't let the Armagnac boil off - you'll want some of that liquid when you puree the pate.

Pour the contents of the frying pan into the food processor with the walnuts, add a pinch more salt and a good deal of pepper, and process until smooth. Let sit until mostly cool, then add the butter in small pieces and process again until smooth. Pour into a serving bowl or crock, cover tightly, and refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

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