Since I am the only food blogger on the planet not to give any Thanksgiving suggestions I thought I would give you some really good stuff for Christmas. The menu I’ve come up with would make an elegant Christmas dinner for family or a really special dinner party for friends. I’ve also designed it so that the work can be spread out over several days if needed. Even more importantly, none of the recipes force you to run around at the last minute, right before your guests arrive. As an added bonus all of the recipes can be scaled up or down to accommodate groups of different sizes (except for the dessert; for big groups just make, or better yet buy, a second). So here is the menu and game plan:
Appetizer – Chicken liver pate – make two days ahead
Main course: Standing rib roast – make day of party
Sides: Gratin Dauphinoise (think fancy scalloped potatoes), roasted vegetables – make while meat is roasting
Dessert: Meyer lemon tart – make one day ahead
So today I’ll show you how to make the chicken liver pate, tomorrow I’ll give the instructions for the lemon tart , tuesday I’ll post the instructions for the potato gratin, and the finale will be the roast on wednesday. So let’s get started!
Chicken Liver Pate
Think of this like foie gras for the rest of us (or for those who don’t like the idea of force feeding to make a fat/liver emulsion inside a living goose). If you want to be really pretentious (this isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing, just keep it in moderation) you can call this ‘pate de foie de volaille au cognac’. To come up with this recipe I read a bunch of pate recipes both online and in the various cookbooks I own and took the best aspects of each one. The biggest influences are here and here.
1 lb. chicken livers
8 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 t thyme (or more, to taste)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
1. Soak the chicken livers in enough milk to cover them for about 2 hours. Drain thoroughly.
2. Melt 1/2 of the butter (4 tablespoons) over medium-high heat, add the onions and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for a few seconds, just enough to get rid of the raw taste.
3. Add the livers, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Saute until the livers are browned outside and just pink inside; 5 minutes or so.
4. Add the brandy/cognac and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked. Please don’t overcook the livers, I think we all have the childhood experience of eating a grey piece of liver with the consistency of shoe leather.
5. Cool the mixture for a bit, remove the bay leaves, and transfer to a food processor. Process until very smooth. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of cold butter and process until the incorporated.
6. Pack the mixture into a container or containers; ramekins (like you would use for creme brulee) work well for this. A small, flat bowl or loaf pan would work too. Refrigerate until set.
6b. (optional) To be very traditional, and also to protect the pate, you can pour a thin layer of melted butter over the pate once it is inside its storage container (the bowl or ramekin from the previous step). The butter will harden and seal the pate.
I am not a huge fan of liver, but I can eat this pate like candy. The richness and ‘liveryness’ is tempered by all the butter, the taste of the cognac, and the herbal flavors from the bay and thyme. If you’ve never had pate you really should try it. Even if you don’t try it, make it – your friends will be impressed and think you slaved away for hours. I like to serve pate with slices of baguette (toasted or not; crackers would work too), coarse mustard, and cornichons (little French pickles). You could get really fancy and make this one part of a charcuterie platter, along with some other meat products. Add some nice cheese and a few bottles of wine for a ready made cocktail party. It can also make a nice lunch or light dinner when paired with a simple green salad.
Next up: Meyer lemon tart