I’m so relieved that pâté has come back into culinary fashion. I sincerely hope that its resurgence signals the end of the low-fat era (which, if you haven’t been paying attention, hasn’t exactly led to a slimmed-down society).
I moved away from the typical sweet and rich pâté ingredients here, instead choosing bright flavors like capers, lemon, and parsley, in hopes that I would get some anti-pâté folks on board. If you’ve never made (or even had) pâté before, give this recipe a shot. Serve it to dinner guests with baguette, cut vegetables, whole grain mustard, and a bowl of those delightfully tiny pickles.
Chicken Liver and Porcini Mushroom Pâté:
.25 oz dried porcini mushrooms (a good sized handful)
1/2 C. dry white wine
2 oz. pancetta, medium dice
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into bits
1 large or 2 medium shallots, roughly chopped (1/3 C. after chopping)
1 large garlic clove, sliced
8 oz. chicken livers
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (from half a lemon)
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 C. heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Place the dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with the wine. Zap in the microwave for 60 seconds and set aside to soften.
Rinse the chicken livers in cold water and trim them into pieces of approximately equal size (most will just need to be halved). Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
Prep the remaining ingredients – chop the pancetta and shallots and slice the garlic, cut the butter into chunks, and pull the leaves from 4 or 5 stems of parsley.
Heat a wide saute pan over medium high heat. Let the pan get nice and hot while you season the livers lightly with salt and pepper. Add about half of the butter and let it melt, bubble, and turn a golden color. Place your livers into the pan in a single layer, leaving as much space as is possible between them. Sear the livers on the first side for about one minute, or until you begin to see them turning a light color all around the edges. Flip the livers over with tongs and cook for another 60 seconds tops on the other side. *TIP: turn the thinnest livers over first and leave the thick ones to cook just a few seconds longer.
Once the livers are browned on both sides but still tender (you don’t want to cook them all the way through), transfer them immediately to the food processor and allow them to rest.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the pancetta to the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the fat begins to render out. Add the shallots to the pan and stir to coat with the fat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Once the shallots have softened, add the garlic slices and allow them to cook just until they begin to lightly brown, about another minute.
Remove the mushrooms from the wine, squeezing out any excess, and place them into the food processor with the livers. Pour the remaining wine into the pan with the shallots to deglaze. Allow the wine to bubble and reduce for about one minute, or until there are just a few spoonfuls of liquid remaining.
Add the wine and shallot mixture to the food processor along with the lemon juice, capers, and parsley. Pulse several times to combine the ingredients and then scrape down the sides of the food processor thoroughly. Add half of the remaining butter bits and run the food processor until the butter is melted. Scrape down the sides again, and add the last of the butter, once again running the machine until it melts. Scrape the sides one last time and allow the machine to run for one full minute while drizzling in the cream through the feed tube. Taste for salt, adding a little more if necessary. Puree further if the pâté still looks a bit chunky.
For an extremely smooth pâté, press the warm mixture through a mesh strainer, being sure to get every last bit that comes out the other side. Transfer the pate to a small bowl or crock, cover tightly, and refrigerate until cold, 2 – 3 hours. The pâté will keep for up to 4 days.