Unlike most of life’s little luxuries, chicken livers are still incredibly cheap. Which means that even if you can’t afford caviar or champagne, you can still afford this rich, creamy homemade pate for under $5… all it takes is a little careful timing, a deft hand with the seasoning and a goodly dose of sherry.
Oh, and a little bacon fat… but we’ll get to that in just a minute.
The trick (or rather, the technique) for making a smooth homemade pate is very simple – cook the livers in a hot pan, and remove from the heat as soon as the outsides are browned, so that the insides are still pink and barely cooked through. Easy peasy.
Lest you get all overconfident about it, just remember that there’s a split-second between Just Perfect and Totally Inedible. If the livers cook all the way through, the pate will be grainy and bitter… so it’s important not to lose your focus. I don’t care if Publisher’s Clearing House is knocking on your door to deliver an oversized cheque for a million bucks with your name on it, DO NOT take your eyes off the pan. That gargantuan cheque can wait, but the chicken livers cannot. They’ll be done in just a few minutes, at which point you can dump the lot in the food processor and then go pose for a photo with your big-ass cheque. You can have pate to celebrate.
The finishing touch for this pate is a thin layer of smoky bacon fat poured over the top, which is partially there to protect the pate from oxidizing (which will turn it into a rather unappealing greenish-greyish-brownish sort of colour). More importantly, though, it gives the pate a lovely smoky note… something the icky rubbery aspic used on most commercial versions won’t do.
You do save your bacon grease, right? Me, I hoard leftover bacon fat like a squirrel hoards nuts for the winter. It’s my secret ingredient for greasy-spoon-worthy fried eggs and hash browns, and it’s what makes for a most divine cornbread when used instead of butter or oil. I’ve even heard tell it can be subbed for butter when making chocolate chip cookies. Yes. That’s right. Bacon Fat Cookies.
I suppose you could use clarified butter, in a pinch. But you’re totally missing out on something magical… and bacony.
Sherried Chicken Liver Pate
4 strips bacon, finely chopped
4 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
3/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 1/4 lb chicken livers, rinsed
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup bacon fat or clarified butter
In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, brown the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan, and set aside. Pour off all but 3 tbsp fat from the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add shallots, garlic and thyme to the pan, and saute for about 5 minutes or until shallots are translucent and soft, but not browned.
Stir in the sherry and allspice, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until the sherry is reduced by about half.
Add chicken livers. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until livers are cooked on the outside but are still pink in the middle.
Remove from heat immediately to avoid overcooking the livers, and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add sugar, salt and cream, and process on low until the livers become a smooth puree. Spoon into a decorative bowl or jar, smoothing the top.
Melt the bacon fat in microwave or a small saucepan over low heat. Pour slowly over the pate to completely cover with a thin, even layer. Place the pate in the refrigerator to chill and set the bacon fat coating.
Once the bacon fat sets, cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep chilled until ready to serve. Once covered, pate will keep in the fridge for up to one week.