Chicken Liver Paté

Posted on February 23, 2006

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Chicken Liver Paté

This inexpensive pate can be prepared quickly, although it needs 10 to 12 hours in the refrigerator to set. It yields enough for about 60 toasts.

This is a precooked pâté. The cooked ingredients are combined into what is sometimes called a mousse, meaning "foam" in French, something that is beaten to produce an emulsion and a light texture. Dishes combined with whipped cream or beaten egg whites often take the name of mousse, such as chocolate mousse or scallop, or chicken liver mousse, akin to this pâté.

This pâté, made with uncooked butter, is lighter and more digestible than one made with pork or chicken fat and cooked. It is important to respect the proportion of fat to liver. Excess liver makes the pâté dark, strong, bitter, and grainy. Be sure that the livers are free of sinews and of any part that is green, which indicates that some of the bitter bile has been in contact with the liver. Pale yellow livers tend to have a mellow, rich taste and are preferable to deep red ones.

Pâtés usually do not freeze well, especially coarse country pates. The inside becomes watery and grainy. Because of its extra-smooth and compact texture, however, this chicken liver pate freezes perfectly. Do not freeze with the aspic or decoration. To freeze, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Defrost it slowly under refrigeration for 24 to 48 hours before decorating and glazing. Small soufflé molds are ideal for freezing because they can be defrosted in only a couple of hours.

The decoration and the aspic glaze, though optional, raise a fairly ordinary preparation to the level of an elegant, classic dish. The aspic sets the decoration, keeping it from curling and wilting, but you can decorate the pate without glazing with aspic if you serve the pâté soon after it’s decorated. There are some basic rules of decorating which you should observe. The decorations should be edible, such as green scallion and red tomato. Avoid vegetables that are bitter, such as lemon peel, or those, such as beets, which will discolor the food. Use carrots, tomatoes, olives, and different shades of green from leeks or lettuce. Cut the vegetables very thin; blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds to make more pliable.

1 pound chicken livers
2/3 cup thinly sliced onions
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed (1/2 teaspoon)
2 bay leaves, crushed
1/4-teaspoon thyme leaves
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky
A piece of tomato skin and green of scallion for decoration (optional)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin for aspic (optional)

Place the livers, onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, water, and 1-teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook at a bare simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes.

Take out the solids with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade. (Reserve and strain the liquid to make the aspic.) Start processing the liver, adding the butter piece by piece. Finally, add the second teaspoon salt, the pepper, and Cognac or whisky and process for 2 more minutes so that the mixture is very creamy and completely smooth. If the mixture looks broken down, with visible fat, let it cool in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to harden the butter, then process again until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

Pour into a mold or crock dish. Decorate or refrigerate to set and serve as is.

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