I screwed up. I was going to bring you a recipe for a delicious country pate that could be made in a hurry in the microwave, but things went horribly wrong. Bottom line: The pate didn’t cook properly and didn’t taste very good, either.
So instead of a new, party-ready recipe, I will repeat two of the grandest pate recipes I have ever tasted — a much-tested and loved rustic country pate recipe from “The New York Times Cookbook” by Craig Claiborne, and an equally loved recipe for chicken liver pate with bacon and walnuts from a small calendar put together in the 1980s by the Silver Palate folks.
In my opinion, unless there’s raw goose or duck foie gras on hand, these are the only two pate recipes you will ever need. Both are unctuously rich and scented with Cognac.
The country pate is the kind that is sliced and served on a plate with cornichons and baguette. It takes a while to make. The chicken liver pate is the kind that is served in a crock or a bowl and spread on crackers or slices of baguette. It requires less time to make.
Both pates remind me of Christmases past and gatherings with old friends and Champagne. Proust has his madeleines. I have my pate. Try one of these incredible recipes and make some memories of your own.
MOUSSE PATE WITH BACON AND WALNUTS
• 6 slices bacon, diced
• 1lb. chicken livers (often sold frozen in supermarkets)
• 1/2 cup brandy
• 3/4 cup whipping cream
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• Pinch of fresh-grated nutmeg
• Salt, fresh-ground pepper
• 1/2 cup coarse-chopped walnuts
• 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
In the bacon fat, fry chicken livers over medium-high heat until brown outside but still slightly pink inside, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the bowl of a food processor.
Add brandy to skillet and scrape up browned bits. Add cream and boil until reduced to about 1 cup. Pour cream mixture into food processor bowl. Add onions and puree until smooth.
Add mayonnaise, thyme, nutmeg, salt and lots of pepper. Process until mixed well. Add bacon, walnuts and parsley; process just until incorporated. Transfer to crocks or decorative bowls. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Makes about 3 cups.
• 1 1/2 lbs. fresh pork fat
• 1 lb. boneless veal
• 1 lb. boneless pork shoulder
• 1 lb. ham
• 1/2 lb. chicken or pork livers
• 8 cloves garlic
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 3 eggs
• 1/2 cup cognac
• 4 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. white pepper
• 1/2 tsp. allspice
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 cup flour
Have the butcher slice one-half pound of the pork fat thinly and finely grind half of the remaining pork fat with all the veal and pork shoulder (or do it yourself.) Grind the ham with a coarse blade with the remaining pork fat.
Line a 3-quart mold or two 1 1/2 quart loaf pans with the thin slices of pork fat, letting the long ends hang outside the pan. (Jane’s note: If the butcher doesn’t have enough pork fat, use raw bacon for this step.)
In a blender, puree the chicken livers with the garlic, cream, eggs and cognac. Gradually blend in about one-third of the pork-veal mixture.
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ground and pureed meats. Add the seasonings and flour and mix thoroughly. Fill the prepared pan(s) with the mixture. Fold the ends of the fat strips over the top. Cover tightly with a double thickness of foil. Place in a larger pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up sides of pate pan(s).
Bake at 400 degrees for 3 hours. Remove foil and continue baking until top of the pate is brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, pour water from larger pan, and again place pate in larger pan. Set on counter. Cover pate with foil. Place a pan slightly smaller than pate pan directly on foil-covered pate and fill with weights (coins, canned goods, etc.) Do not remove weights until pate is completely cool. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pate will keep several weeks if surrounding fat is not removed.
From “The New York Times Cook Book” by Craig Claiborne.
What I cooked at home last week:
Baked cod in a Szechuan sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts; pan-grilled T-bone steak, roast butternut squash; turkey broth with wilted greens and a hard-cooked egg; hot dogs and beans; wilted greens with garlic (and thawed-out previously roasted pork); wilted greens and eggs scrambled in olive oil; sugar-free chocolate pudding; country pate with Cognac.
What I ate away from home last week:
Vegan gumbo at a Christmas open house. Tony was away for a week hunting and I mostly stayed home and cleaned house.
From Dorothy G.:
There is a library book, don’t know the name right off, that lists how much money old cookbooks and pamphlets are going for on the sale market. We all probably have a fortune in our collections! Don’t let anyone in your family get rid of them when you are gone — they can be sold.
We’re rich! Actually, I plan to get rid of dozens of cookbooks for $1 to $2 each next spring at a yard sale, so come on over.
I know from past posts that you are a proponent of brining your turkey. I agree. As a matter of fact, several years ago I sent you an email regarding my idea of putting my turkey and brine in trash bags in my cooler surrounded by ice overnight. Oops. Some of your other readers weren’t happy with the idea of possible toxins leaching from trash bags. Shhh! I continued to do that practice until last year. That is when I heard of dry brining.
Last year was good just with overnight dry brining because I didn’t know the procedure called for a longer time. So this year I applied the dry brine on Tuesday night and my 22-pound turkey sat uncovered per instructions in my fridge until Thursday (some Internet sites suggest even longer, up to 3 days ahead of cooking.)
I have to tell you we were very happy with the results and the procedure is so much easier than wet brining. It uses a lot less salt — one-half cup kosher salt mixed with two tablespoons baking powder. I added a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. Some recipes suggest adding herbs, too. Then just evenly sprinkle the mixture all over the turkey and a little in the cavity. I didn’t even use all of the mix.
Just curious, have you tried this method?
No, but I will the next time I roast a turkey. Thanks for the tutorial. I have dry-brined chicken breasts and pork chops but I didn’t know you could dry-brine a whole turkey. That sure would beat hauling a cooler to the kitchen and scouring it before and after brining — not to mention measuring out all that salt and liquid and replacing the ice each morning. Thanks again, Dave.
Has anyone else tried dry-brining a turkey? Is the meat as juicy as with wet brining?
(Regarding last week’s cookie recipes), My husband made jam poppits for years; that was his special Christmas cookie. I didn’t have the patience.
From Nancy S.:
(Regarding the Viennese Shortbread recipe), These cookies are the BOMB! I’ve been making them ever since I cut the recipe out of the Beacon over 20 years ago. They are my son’s favorite and mine, too. Thanks, Jane.
From Dawn C.:
The pecan-apricot cranberry sauce you mentioned in the newsletter sounds divine! Was that at Heidi’s? Would she share the recipe?
Sorry you won’t be making cookies for the holiday. I’m about to delve into my baking frenzy. (I have all the decorating, shopping and cards done, so it’s on to the really fun stuff!) I spend about three days baking from sunup to sundown. And I love it. The cookie recipes you shared sound wonderful! I may have to try at least one of them this year. Merry Christmas!
Whoa, whoa, whoa. You have all the decorating, shopping and cards done? Who are you, Wonder Woman?
Your Christmas baking spree sounds wonderful. Kudos to you. I did something similar when I was young. Then I realized that of the 10 dozen cookies I made each December, I ate about 9 dozen of them. I do miss baking cookies.
The pecan-apricot cranberry sauce Heidi made is from “Cold Weather Cooking” by Sarah Leah Chase. It is fabulous. I have printed the recipe several times, and am happy to do so once more.
WHOLE CRANBERRY SAUCE
• 1 lb. fresh cranberries
• 1/2 cup inexpensive port wine, such as Gallo
• 1/2 cup orange juice
• 1 cup diced, dried apricots
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup pecan halves
Place cranberries, port, orange juice, apricots and sugars in a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, spread pecan halves on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for five minutes. Set aside. Immediately before serving, stir pecans into cranberry sauce. Makes about four cups, enough for 10 to 12 servings.