Friday, December 17, 2010

Chicken Liver Pâté Round ??


Chicken liver pâté is one of my favorite things to make and to eat. The first time I prepared it, I was living with my parents for a short period of time after graduating from college and before starting to work. I was trying to make up for playing the part of the typical college student who returned home jobless, by making dinner for them on a semi-regular basis. I was just starting to delve into the world of cooking and my meals were always the result of experiments with new dishes. It is unlikely that we ate the same thing twice during those few months.

I remember my osso bucco being a particular hit with my father. Of course, there was also the day I fell asleep on the couch while there were chicken thighs braising on the stove. I awoke to a house filled with smoke and some chunks of carbonized, used-to-be-chicken thighs permanently fused to the now ruined pan. Luckily, I was just cooking for one that night and my parents were out of town.

The first time I made chicken liver pâté it seemed as if I was embarking on quite the endeavor. After all, pâtés and charcuterie, though delicious, were still a mystery to me and not the sort of things you made at home. My mother assured me over and over again that it was a very simple dish to make, but I did not believe her. It was too exotic. How could pâté be easy?

Turns out, it is easy. It is also cheap. A pound of chicken livers is never over $2 and that includes the livers that I picked up from high-end, specialty retailer Eataly, here in New York. Once I discovered how easy it is to make this rich, delicious and often impressive dish, it became part of my regular repertoire. Chicken liver pâté at the holidays, chicken liver pâté to go with every cheese plate, my mom and I even made it for an event during the weekend of my brother’s wedding. We have bounced back and forth between recipes and I am always on the lookout for new ones to try.

So, when I saw this latest recipe while perusing Sweet Paul, a visually stunning online magazine, I knew I would be making it that weekend. This is a great chicken liver pâté. I will not go as far as to say that it is my favorite (that title still belongs to this recipe), but it is delicious and, unlike my favorite recipe, perfect for placing in a beautiful jar, under a thick layer of clarified butter and giving as a gift this holiday season.

Chicken Liver Pâté
Sweet Paul Magazine

1 pound chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup milk
3 T butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 t fresh thyme
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 cup cognac (I used white wine)
4 T butter

1 stick butter
6 sprigs thyme

Place the chicken lives in the milk and soak in the refrigerator overnight (24 hours if possible). Drain the livers. In a large pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and sweat the onions until beginning to soften. Add the chicken livers and thyme and sauté until the livers are browned on the outside (about five minutes). Season with salt and pepper and cook for one more minute. Add the cognac or wine and cook until almost all of the liquid is gone. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. Spoon the pâté into six ramekins.

For the topping: Melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan. As the milk solids float to the top, remove them with a spoon until the butter is totally clear and you are left with clarified butter (alternately you may purchase clarified butter and melt it until pourable). Cover each ramekin with a layer of clarified butter. Place one thyme sprig in the butter for decoration and chill until solid.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comfort in a Bowl


Most days I push myself pretty hard. I work full time and go to school at night. In my spare minutes I compose posts for Apples and Butter, do a bit of freelance writing and work my tush off at making contacts within my industry here in New York. During my best weeks, I even get up early to stop by the gym on my way in to work.

Today is not one of those days and it is certainly not one of those weeks.

I took my level three final last night at The French Culinary Institute. It was the midterm for the entire program at FCI and worth 50 percent of my grade. In other words, a big deal. While it is a relief to have the thing over with, I am feeling a bit worn down from the whole process.

The flip side of pushing myself so hard is that I also have learned how to hit the brakes and indulge myself a bit when it is truly needed. Today I have plans for a lunchtime trip to Strand to treat myself to a new (used) cookbook or two to flip through while I lay in my cozy bed watching movies, and a big bowl of warm, comforting soup for dinner.

There is something so restorative about a bowl of soup.

This is yet another riff (or shall I say variation? Somewhere between this week and last, I began to hate the word riff, which is entirely unfortunate since it seems to be the favored word of bloggers and established writers alike when referring to their own take on something: ‘My riff on Suzanne Goin’s bacon-wrapped dates,” or “we were riffing on different potato-based soups.” Ugh). I digress. This is yet another way to use my vegetable soup formula. Specifically, this is an example of how to use the formula to make a roasted vegetable soup. Butternut squash is the main ingredient, but I also threw in some roasted mushrooms. I find the savory flavor of mushrooms in pureed soup to add a creaminess that is particularly comforting and I may have mentioned this already, but today I am in need of some comfort.

Refer back to the original vegetable soup formula if you would like to make some changes to this basic variation. And by all means do. Your perfect bowl of comfort may not look exactly like mine.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Soup

1 lb cubed butternut squash
8 oz domestic mushrooms, sliced or quartered, plus more for garnish if desired
Canola oil
1 small onion, or half of a larger one, diced
A few sprigs of tarragon
A few springs of thyme
1 1/2 – 2 quarts of vegetable stock (6 – 8 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste
Walnut oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚
Toss the mushrooms and butternut squash with a bit of oil and salt pepper. Spread out the vegetables on a roasting pan and bake until the squash is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add a bit of canola oil to a soup pot placed over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until softened. Add the thyme and tarragon and sauté for a minute or two longer. Add the roasted vegetables to the pot and cover with vegetable stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the thyme and tarragon and transfer the mixture to a blender to puree, in batches if necessary. Return the pureed soup to the pot and season with salt and pepper. If desired, serve with a garnish of roasted mushrooms and a bit of walnut oil.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Meatballs for The Sunday Cook


Few and far between are the weeknights I have time to cook a meal at home. I work full time and run straight from work to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The other two nights I catch up with girlfriends or attempt to check off an endless to-do list and by the time I make it home, I am too tired to move, let alone cook.

The thing is, I am one of those peculiar people who gets energized from being in the kitchen. I know that if I can just get started on something, I will catch my second wind and be left with a delicious, often affordable and usually healthy dinner.

In order to increase the likelihood that I will get cooking on the rare night I find myself at home, I am always on the lookout for simple dishes (love a good stir-fry or fried rice) or a dish that has me doing most of the prep work ahead of time, on a weekend, when I have more time. This is known as being a Sunday cook.

If you are looking to expand your Sunday cook repertoire, try these Thai-inspired turkey meatballs. They were the result of a recent Sunday project that kept me well-fed on Tuesday nights for an entire month. The recipe itself is more an exercise in mixing than cooking, but having a bag of these frozen meatballs in the freezer meant I was never more than 15 minutes away from an easy, home-cooked meal. Simply thaw a few of the meatballs in the refrigerator overnight, or use the defrost setting on your microwave if you are pressed for time. Add a bit of canola oil to a small sauté pan and cook these up over medium heat. They make a great addition to many dishes—think soups, stews, pastas, or my favorite application, over a bowl of wheat berries with a poached egg—or just serve them on their own with a salad on the side.

Thai-Inspired Meatballs
Adapted from Everyday Food

2 pounds ground turkey
6 scallions
3 T Japanese fish sauce (2T if you do not have the Japanese variety which has a milder flavor)
2 T Sriracha
1 T sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cooked barley

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Cut the scallions in half lengthwise and thinly slice white and light green parts only. Place the dark green sections in your freezer bag for collecting vegetable scraps for stock. Add the chopped scallions to the turkey. Mix the fish sauce, Sriracha, sugar and garlic in a small bowl. Add the fish sauce mixture to the ground turkey, along with the cooked barley, and mix gently. I prefer to wear disposable gloves and mix with my hands, just until combined.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Shape the turkey mixture into meatballs of your desired size and place on the cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid. Transfer frozen meatballs to a Ziploc freezer bag and use as needed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cookies for the Holidays - Updated with Winner


A random number generator selected comment number 11 as the winning comment. Congratulations Terri. I will contact you to arrange delivery of the items. Enjoy!

In honor of the start to the shopping, err I mean holiday season, Apples and Butter is hosting a giveaway of yummy treats and a cookbook filled with lots of tempting, delicious recipes. I don't know about you, but one way I manage to get everyone checked off my list is by baking their presents. It is more affordable than purchasing gifts for everyone on my list and it has the added bonus of putting me in the holiday spirit.

Last year I undertook the major project of truffle making. The truffles were delicious and I hope enjoyed by all recipients, but I will not be repeating that process in my tiny New York kitchen. This year cookies are on the gift-giving menu and I have every intention of finding some of those recipes in the cookbook from Tate's Bake Shop.

Tate's is a bakery based in Southampton that makes crisp, delicious cookies as well as cakes, brownies and squares. I generally consider myself more of a puffy, chewy chocolate chip cookie kind of girl, but I devoured half of the chocolate chip cookies within 20 minutes of their arrival. Oops. Luckily for you, since I have none left to share, you have the opportunity to win your own gift box of Tate's cookies and the Tate's cookbook to find your own baking inspiration. Just leave a comment here telling me what recipe you make as a holiday gift and you are automatically entered in the drawing. If you become a fan of Tate's on facebook, you get to enter twice. Just leave another comment letting me know you became a fan and that will serve as your second entry. Sorry to all you foreign readers, but for shipping reasons, the giveaway is only open to U.S. residents.

Not a baker? Tate's doesn't want you to miss out either. You can still check everyone off your holiday list by ordering cookies online. Tate's will even give you 15 percent off your online order. Just enter the code 'cookie' anytime before December 31st and the discount will be automatically applied.