Chicken liver pate’

Time for revenge on the morning rooster

PATE
The word means paste, which at first glance tends to rob the meal of class and excitement. But why be bothered by direct translation when the only thing that really matters is the effect of eating the pâté, not only on you but also on your fellow diners. The whole offal deal is one that puts even the most experienced cook on the spot. While anyone can produce a fine meal with prime ingredients, getting a highclass show on the road with spare parts from dead chickens is quite another. A plain chicken liver pâté is the place to start, moving on in later stories to the exquisite culinary experiences that the beginner cook can produce using only the inner organs of beasts and fowls …

To make a fundamental chicken liver pâté that’s ready in time for breakfast, you will need:

  • 500g chicken livers
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g smoked streaky bacon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 50ml brandy
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh thyme

Two items in this list require sharp focus and your full attention. The first is the offal. Nothing – with the possible exception of yesterday’s shad caught at high tide – goes off quite as fast as offal. For this reason alone ensure that the chicken livers you buy are as fresh as possible. Next, the dop. Now this might be pure fantasy on my part, given the tiny quantity involved, but I strongly believe that when brandy is used as a flavouring agent, only the best will do.

Moving on: if frozen, thaw the livers, rinse under cold running water and let them drain. Peel the onion and cut it into very thin slices. Crush, peel and mince the garlic. Crush or grind the pepper. Wash the thyme carefully to remove all traces of Mother Earth and the odd thymeflavoured aphid, then chop it finely.

Now for the bacon. Here we have three choices, each of which has a useful consequence for the final production. Green or unsmoked bacon has a singular flavour, different from the more usual bacon taste. Mild, with a lot more pig and a lot less smoke, its flavour augments the contribution made by the livers, onion and garlic.

On the other hand, smoked bacon – leanish or streaky – adds a game, smoky flavour to the final mix, thus leaving you, the chef, with a couple of minor decisions to make. Cut the bacon into wide sections, say 25mm2. In a heavy, stainless steel frying pan pour in sufficient extra-virgin olive oil to cover the bottom. Bring this up to medium heat, add the thyme and sauté the minced garlic and thinly sliced onion until the onion is reduced to a transparent, golden hash.

Remove the cooked onion and reserve it under cover. Add the whole chicken livers and cook them on medium heat until very slightly pink in the centre. At this point add the bacon and cook in the same pan for a couple of minutes. Return the cooked onion to the pan and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the dop and let it boil for a minute or two. Remove the pan and pour the contents into a food processor. Macerate the contents to a paste, deciding whether or not you prefer a smooth or coarsely chopped pâté. Serve with fresh toast and black espresso to produce a breakfast of profound satisfaction. – David Basckin