Monday 21 December 2015

Chicken liver and sherry paté

Two big issues with this recipe blog.

One. The photography. Think it's hard to make paté look even edible in an amateur photograph? That thing above is my best effort. Look, I even stuck the stuff on a nice olive wood board and put pointless tomatoes and green things (spinach) in the background. But do you think FoodGawker and the other kitchen porn sites will accept it? No chance. Pink paté quickly turns... let's call it khaki - no one wants to eat 'grey/green' meat product do they? Still it looks just a little bit like something once wild that now has been strangely decapitated by bread (perhaps a sharp sourdough loaf that fell from the Ocado van?) If you Google 'chicken liver paté' you'll find a smorgasbord of horror shots, from the permanently  preternaturally pink to the sludge scary grey of cardboard box road kill, after a week of sleet. I know, this is making you so hungry. Mmmmm. Just call me Nigella.

Right now try and make actual chicken livers look sexy? They just don't, and that's after you've cut off the excess fat and 'stringy veins' that all the recipes take a perverse pleasure in detailing. No one wants to photograph 'stringy veins', let alone eat them. Yeah, so I haven't. Yeah, so...

Problem two is offal. Livers are offal. People don't like offal. It's the most frequently proscribed foodstuff in the dining club. "We're easy. We eat anything. Apart from offal, of course." Funny then that despite these protestations, paté is one of the most popular starter in most restaurants. It's even served at banquets where most anything outré is eschewed. But like things once grimaced at, you only have to blend it with butter and/or deep fry it in batter and most people will happily snarf a handful.

This is based on Heston's famous parfait; the one he uses to make his meat fruit. I find the port in his recipe a little... intrusive, so go with a dry sherry instead. It is a deeply flavourful paté, creamy and earthy, much more so than all but the very best shop bought. It's also something of a bargain. Chicken livers are cheap. You pay in time, of course. This isn't quick. But you can bulk it. It's Christmas. Make many.

I've decided to do a little summary in my recipes. I'm fed up of being presented with two pages of instructions for a laborious preparation. You read it twice and still have no idea of what to do. Sounds daft maybe, but by the end, you've forgotten the start; much like some of my very long sentences. Who else uses this many semi-colons?

Paté of chicken livers and sherry.
Makes a block that will feed 16 as a starter.

Make a reduction of spirits, herbs and shallots
Blend warmed livers and eggs with melted butter.
Add reduction.
Add cream.
Cook in a bain-marie.
Set overnight in fridge.
You will need a temperature probe.


Add the following to a bowl and leave overnight, or as long as possible: 100g finely chopped shallots (two or three), a clove of garlic, big bunch of thyme, two bay leaves, small bunch of rosemary, 100ml brandy, 150ml dry sherry (Manzanilla) and 150ml dry madeira.

Reduce the mix to a thin syrup, stirring constantly towards the end to prevent sticking and burning. Remove the herbs but leave the garlic and shallot. 

Livers, eggs and butter.

Take 400g of well trimmed livers. Well trimmed? this means no fat or visible veins. I get mine from star butchers F. Norman of Oakwood and they arrive, thankfully, very well trimmed. I admit I'm not keen on visible veins. Place the livers in a sandwich bag/freezer bag with 20g table salt. Looks like a lot but this is the seasoning for the entire paté not just the livers. 

Some people like to soak their livers in milk or water to remove 'bitterness'. I'm not convinced but if you are, go ahead. I'm not the man to dissuade you. It won't harm the dish. It will waste a little milk though. If your livers are 'bitter', perhaps use different livers? Remember people used to salt perfectly good aubergines, to 'degorge' them? No one does that any more either.

In another sandwich bag place four large eggs.

In a pan, mix equal amounts of just boiled water and cold water. This should bring the temperature to around (maths!) 50°C. Place the bags in the water so the contents are immersed. Make sure the bags won't slip. You don't want water in them. I use pegs to secure. Leave for 20 minutes. The water should be kept around that temperature. 
I use my sous vide machine to keep the water at 50°C. But you can just top up with hot water occasionally. Check with your probe.

Meanwhile, melt 400g unsalted butter and allow to cool.

Set the oven to 110°C.

Put the warm eggs, livers and alcohol/shallot reduction in a blender. Add the butter while blending. Blend until very smooth.

Yes, it's a faff but I do it this way (as I presume does Mr Blumenthal) to preserve the livers' colour and texture. Some recipes fry the livers first. That has to result in a coat of grey, friable material. Not good.

Sieve the mix into a bowl, pressing through with the back of a ladle.

Now add 150ml double cream

Butter and line a tin or ceramic terrine dish (I used a loaf tin) with baking paper. You will need to be able to fold over a few layers of paper to protect the mix while it cooks. The mix will not expand much while cooking.

Place the tin in a roasting tin and fill up to halfway with more freshly boiled water. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. Check with the probe though. The paté should be at 64°C (different recipes vary between 62 and 65). The outside will discolour but a gentle knife scrape should reveal a pale, delicate pink.

Remove and allow to cool before chilling overnight. Once set it's quite easy to remove. It won't be a hard slab like the supermarket stuff though so use a gentle hand. The flavour and texture are nothing like the supermarkets either, being far less coarse with no graininess. There's a real depth and a 'height' to the flavour - Belinda describes it as like blue cheese. No, you won't be tasting Stilton but I know what she means.

Best cut with a warm, wet knife. That will give you smooth slices, if you care about the presentation. Sprinkle with a decent, crunchy, sea salt like Maldon.

No comments :

Post a Comment