Sunday, August 21, 2011

Easy Chicken Liver Pate & Pickled Red Onions

I love chicken livers.

I blame my mother.

Mom would grill them (until they were just a bit too tough, but what did I know), then share them with me as we stood in the kitchen over the sink, never bothering to sit or enjoy, but more likely gobbling them for no other reason then that they tasted delicious, earthy, and even a bit, well, visceral, the way offal should.

I eat pates whenever possible, and only very occasionally make more rustic pates on my own, mostly because no one else in the house will eat them. Pity.

Today, I made the most delightful chicken liver pate, and just have to share the recipe with you, mostly because it's so, so very good.

Easy Chicken Liver Pate
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly or diced, whatever you like
  • 1 Gala apple, peeled, then diced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed of the chunky stuff
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • salt
  • pepper
Melt 2 T. butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the apple and onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cleaned and trimmed chicken livers to the pan with the apples and onions and saute until the livers are just no longer pink in the middle, about 6-7 minutes. Add the brandy to the pan (carefully; you don't want it to catch fire) and cook for an additional minute, until about half has evaporated.

Place the chicken liver mixture into a food processor, adding the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, then process until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to make creamy, adding up to an additional 2 tablespoons of cream (up to a total of 4 T.) Add a bit of salt and just a bit of pepper, give it a taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Place into a container, leave the lid off, and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Cover and place in refrigerator until firm, 6-8 hours.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Today I made a riff on a recipe I found on the fabulous David Lebovitz's site. I'm not as big a fan of some of the flavorings he uses in matching them with my pate recipe, so I've adjusted accordingly. You can check out the original recipe here.

For my purposes, I skipped the hot pepper, allspice, and cloves, and instead added 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns. Follow the rest of the recipe and you'll be all set.

I make the onions concurrently with the pate, so they'll both have ample time to chill.

Grab a loaf of crusty bread, a liver-lovin' friend, sit back and enjoy. This is one of my favorite fall recipes, and I am ready to go. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Two Men Down: Teen Chicken Butchering

This week at The Kitchen Studio we're holding our annual Iron Chef-style camp. Each day we focus on a particular technique, then finish with a competition on the last day using a "secret ingredient". It is absolutely one of our most popular camps for this age group and usually sells out very quickly, though I often wonder if these teens (and their parents) know what they're getting into.

On day one, we always work through knife skills. Some have worked with knives before and feel comfortable working their way through carrots, celery, onions, etc. Some have never held an 8" knife in their life and are having their first taste of kitchen freedom. All goes well until about an hour and a half in. That's when we bring out the chickens.

If you're a carnivore, and oh boy am I, I think it's important that you realize that your meat doesn't start as the homogenized packages you find at the grocery. Or even worse, as chicken nuggets in a box.

I think it's important to recognize that meat was once an actual living, breathing creature. It gave up it's life (not so willingly I'd assume) so that you could have a good dinner. You must respect this, or you really just can't be a responsible cook.

So we break out the chickens. Everyone gets one, and I do mean every single person in class gets his or her own chicken to break down into 10 pieces.

This task is sometimes met with fear, but most of the time, the teens are pretty stoked. After all, it is unlikely that their parents give them a chicken to cut apart and that no one will freak if they make a mistake (I won't). It's a real step into independence in the kitchen -- trust me.

The only teens who really hate this exercise are those toying with vegetarianism, and I completely respect that. Your teen years are truly about figuring out who you are, and the whole breaking-down-a-chicken thing can really throw those that aren't quite sure of their stance on meat yet. Who knew you'd have to take a stance so young?

This year we have 12 teens in class. Ten got through the chickens, and did very well for first-timers. One potential vegetarian politely declined from the outset (she made an excellent Dutch Baby instead), and another gave in about halfway though, pale and green, though he has recovered nicely for the rest of the week (that said, he has told me that he didn't feel well at the start of class, but didn't want to miss it), so I'm cutting him huge amounts of slack, especially since he's been all in as far as using the chickens.

We use the chicken pieces throughout the week in both the morning and afternoon camp, freezing what won't be used and making stock with the carcasses. We're demonstrating that if something gave up it's life so that you could have a nice dinner, you owe it to them to use every single bit you can, right down to the bones. And teaching that is the best way I can think to teach respect.