If you are going to do something, then do it well. With intensity and passion.
For example, take chicken. “Tastes just like chicken” may be the most used culinary insult available. Because chicken can really, really be exceptionally good. Yet we are all quite stuck in our cooking-chicken ways: baked, roasted, barbequed. How can you have that chicken flavor but make it excitingly different, especially for a hot summer day’s brunch or dinner. There’s a double drought on: no rain and not enough good chicken ideas.
With lots and lots of cookbooks on our shelves, Suzen and I sometimes look at old friends for inspiration. This recipe, from The Classic Food of Northern Italy published in 1996, is overflowing with intense chicken flavor. It’s a terrine, made from those thighs pictured above, but also with chicken livers and some butter and some brandy. Everything is cooked, then put into a food processor, then cooked again in a bain-marie [a water bath]. The terrine, or pâte if you will, is chilled and served cold.
For a warm summer day, have this terrine on a bed of salad with a sharp vinaigrette. A chilled bottle of white ready to pour is the only addition you will need for a complete meal. That unending heat will not abate because you make this dish. But for this one meal, you’ll taste relief. Oh, and you’ll taste chicken as God intended.
Yield: serves 8
- 1 ¾ pounds fresh chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2garlic cloves, bruised
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 7 ounces of chicken livers
- 7 ounces [14 tablespoons] unsalted butter
- 3 ½ ounces [½cup] very finely chopped onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 tablespoons brandy
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Skin the chicken thighs, remove and discard the fat attached to them, and place in a roasting pan.
In a bowl mix together the oil, garlic, 2 teaspoons of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Brush the thighs all over with the seasoned oil using the rosemary sprig. Throw the rosemary, the garlic and any left-over oil into the pan and place the tin in the oven. After 5 minutes remove and discard the garlic. Cook, basting once or twice, for about 20 minutes. The chicken should no longer be bloody though still undercooked. Leave to cool while you cook the chicken liver. Leave the oven on.
Trim the fat and gristle off the chicken livers and cut the livers into pieces. Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter, the onion, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt in a frying pan and cook to soften the onion. As soon as the onion is soft add the chicken livers. Fry for 5 minutes; then splash with the brandy. Finally, cook rapidly for 2 or 3 minutes.
Go back to the chicken thighs. Remove the bone and cut the meat into pieces. Put the meat, the chicken livers with all the cooking juices, and the remaining butter cut into pieces in a food processor and give it a whizz for 2 or 3 seconds. Add salt and pepper. (I add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of ground pepper, because any pâte or terrine that is served chilled needs a lot of seasoning.)
Whizz again to a very coarse texture – not a smooth pâte-like consistency. Taste and check seasoning.
Line a 1 quart loaf tin with foil and spoon the mixture into it, pushing it down and banging the tin hard on the work surface to eliminate any air pockets. Cover with cling film.
Now you must cook the terrine in a bain-marie in the oven. To do that, place the terrine in a roasting pan and pour some boiling water into the pan to come half to three-quarters of the way up the side of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
When the terrine is cold, refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
You can serve the whole terrine in a dish, surrounding it with a little salad, drizzled with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, or you can slice the terrine and put it on individual plates on a bed of lightly dressed salad.
Source: Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anna del Conte
Pâté is a four letter word. Foie gras are two four letter words. Either way, they conjure up a vision of something unhealthy, that takes too long to make, that is a hotsy-totsy food. There are many reasons for not touching the stuff.
On the other hand, in that gourmet section of your grocery store, the pâté or foie gras sits there and beckons you. The texture, whether smoothly seductive or granular like some special meatloaf, simply announces: “Inside this small package is a wealth of flavor for you. Just buy me. Yes, buy me. Get a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and pretend you are back in the 60’s or 70’s or whatever.”
There is the secret. You do not eat this every single day, unless you have 100% French genes. You just eat a little, now and then. And you share this treasure with someone special. I have never ever eaten pâté by myself. I swear. Now, I can’t say that about Junior Mints, or Oreos, or chocolate ice cream, or fudge, or … Alright, you understand. I have a high level of culinary selfishness. But when it comes to pâté, I always share.
With this delightful recipe from Tartine Bread, you can even share the cooking tasks. This recipe is described as an everyday pâté and has been designed for swift, simple preparation. As a party starter, you will grab praise as your guests sample away. Don’t skimp here. There is a cognac butter that is truly essential to the complete flavor experience. If you can’t escape to France, you can buy some duck or chicken livers.
Yield: serves 4 to 6
For the foie:
- 6 duck or chicken livers
- Olive oil
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup cognac
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the cognac butter:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon cognac
- Pinch of salt
- Several slices of toasted French bread or whole wheat bread
Rinse the livers in cold water and remove any visible fat or connective tissue. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke, carefully add the livers and sear for about 30 seconds. Quickly turn the livers, add the shallots, and sear for another 30 seconds. Add the thyme and cook for a few seconds until it is aromatic. Remove the pan from the heat and pour off the excess oil and fat. While the pan is still hot, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and ¼ cup of the cognac, and deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen any brown bits sticking to the bottom. Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and let cool for 8 to 10 minutes.
Once the livers have cooled, add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the food processor and process to a thick puree. Add the salt and the remaining ¼ cup cognac and process again. Taste and add more salt if needed. Pour the liver puree into ramekins or into a suitably sized loaf or pâté pan.
To make the cognac butter, place the butter in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cognac until it is hot to the touch. Add it to the butter along with the salt. Stir the butter until it has a liquid consistency and then pour it evenly over the pâté. Cover and refrigerate until the cognac butter has set. Serve cool or at room temperature with toast.
Source: Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger