Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Provencal with a Drawl

It's a travesty that I cook so little southern cuisine. It really is. I've lived in Alabama my entire life, I'm no stranger to country life and country food, and both my mother and late grandmother are/were excellent cooks. If I had to nail it down, it would be akin to living in a place your entire life, and yearning to get far away from it as soon as you could. In the end, however, you find just how much you miss home.

I've had a revival of a sort in the past year. I've really grown to appreciate the simple foods I was raised on. I'm drawn to southern cooking because it's another one of those great culinary disciplines that has come from poverty roots. In that respect, it draws a lot of similarities to the spirit of Provencal French cooking. In the case of cajun and creole influences, the similarities are more obvious, but I think all southern cuisine shares a similar love of simple recipes, quality ingredients, and being able to make the most out of what you've got.

For a southern cooking contest I participated in on Something Awful, I wanted to marry French techniques with southern ingredients. Here's my lineup:
  • Vidalia vichyssoise with cornbread
  • Fried green tomato gallettes with remoulade and blackened alligator
  • Baked grüyere grits with crawfish, red pepper, and bacon
  • Pecan creme brulee
First things first, let's start with the vichyssoise. Vichyssoise is a creamy potato soup, often with leeks or some onion accent. For mine, I added buttermilk and served it cold. I have fond memories of my grandmother and also my mom taking a nice cold glass of buttermilk, adding a little pepper, and dunking a wedge of cornbread into the glass, and eating it with a spoon, breaking up the cornbread as they went along. I wanted to capture that kind of southern treat in a different light, so I dished the soup in a way that most southerners would be familiar with - in a mason jelly jar.

For the vichyssoise, you'll need this:

  • 1 large vidalia onion, chopped
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 or 4 blades of chives for garnish
  • 1 wedge cornbread (shown later)

Begin by melting butter in a stock pot. On medium heat, add your onions and salt. Saute for 5 minutes, then sweat for another 15 minutes. Add your potatoes & stock, bring up to a boil, then back to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and put it on a trivet. Get a wand blender if you have one and puree the soup. If not, whip it up in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.

Add buttermilk and cream. Stir.

Dole out into containers to let cool and store in the fridge to chill.

Let's make the cornbread now! It's a staple to southern food and works to sop up flavorful sauces, or you can split it and drop a pad of butter or cane patch syrup on it. We'll be using it for the vichyssoise but there's plenty of leftovers so dish it up as a great complement to hashed leftovers or anything you've got.

Before we do that, let's cook some bacon. The bacon will be used in another dish. We want the rendered bacon fat. Cook down a pound of bacon, setting the cooked strips on a plate with paper towels to drain. You should have about six or seven tablespoons of bacon fat after you're done.

You only need a few strips of bacon in the actual dishes. The others are given to hungry impatient people who crowd the kitchen at the smell of bacon. You can eat a strip or two yourself if you believe in cooking tax, hehe.

Got the bacon fat, so lets make cornbread.
  • 2 cups self-rise cornmeal (yellow is more traditional but I used white to match the vichyssoise.)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 6-7 tbsp bacon fat (use butter if you don't have any)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 450, add your bacon fat to an 8 inch cast iron skillet, and let sit for five minutes in the oven. While that's heating up, combine your flours and salt in a bowl, then your milks. Stir through completely to form a very loose dough. The baking powder in the self-rising cornmeal is going to be working now, so you have to be quick. Pull the skillet out (please use a potholder!) and pour all but one tablespoon of bacon fat into the dough.

Stir that completely and add your beaten egg to the dough, again stirring until fully combined. Carefully pour your dough back into the skillet, and return to the skillet.

Put into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is a rich copper brown. Pull the skillet out, place a plate over the skillet, and invert onto a table.

Let your cornbread cool about ten minutes and cut some thin wedges out of it. Prepare some eight ounce jelly jars and ladle your vichyssoise into that. Stuff a wedge of cornbread in, and stand your chive blades into the thick chilled soup.

Now, for the second course, we are making fried green tomato gallettes with remoulade dressing and blackened alligator. Gallettes are traditionally made with fried rings of potatoes in France, and the center packed with herbed goat cheese. In my southern translation, I used firm and tart fried green tomatoes to stand with equally tart remoulade and spicy chunks of alligator. I'm sure you've all seen the Fried Green Tomatoes movie with Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy. It's not really a great movie, but it's based on a real restaurant that's within a few miles of my parent's house. In my opinion, this is just about the best way to enjoy a good tomato.

Let's start small. We need to make remoulade. That means we need mayonnaise. Fortunately it's not tricky at all.
  • 2 egg yolks, slightly warm
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Begin by whisking the eggs with salt and lemon juice. Add the oil, a few drops at first, and then a stream, whisking as you go. It'll thicken up as you do this. I wanted a loose custard consistency so that's where I stopped at:

Chill in the fridge and it'll set up a little more. You've got about a cup of mayo with this recipe, so lets turn out remoulade.

Here's what we use:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup capers, washed and chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp coarse grain dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chopped anchovy filets
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • t tsp cayenne pepper

Nothing fancy here. Add all the ingredients to your mayo and mix. Hooray remoulade!

Now let's make some blackening spice for the alligator. Like most of this, you can buy pre-made if you want, but it's really easy to just make your own and you'll save money this way.

Combine these spices:
  • 4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper

Put into a spice jar. Shake.

Should be enough for a few dishes, but you apply this stuff pretty liberally.

Lets cook some alligator.

This is pretty regional so don't fret if you can't find it. Chicken or shrimp work about as well depending on your preference. I get alligator in one pound frozen chunk-meat packages. It pulls apart into a few irregular shaped bits. Smear blackening powder all over those, flipping over to mop up as much spice as you can.

If you're sly, you can get a few bacon drippings from your cast iron skillet reserved to cook your gator. If not, a pad of butter in there will also work. Get the heat up to medium-high. You want to get a good color on that spice rub.

Take it up after about 2 minutes on each side.

Now onto the gallettes.

Pretty simple stuff. You need this:
  • 1 large firm green tomato, sliced about 3/4" thick into discs
  • some buttermilk for dipping
  • some cornmeal for batter
  • oil, for frying
Heat your oil to medium-high. Take your slices of tomato and cut a circular shape out of each with a paring knife.

Each ring gets a dip into buttermilk, then a few pats into corn meal to get a good solid batter shell on it. Slip the rings into oil, cooking about 3-4 minutes each side, then flipping. Cool on a wire rack.

Arrange some arugula on a warm plate, then lay the gallette on top of that. Spoon remoulade into the hole until it is completely filled, and place four pieces of blackened alligator on the edges.

Now for the third course, we're making baked grüyere grits with crawfish tails, red peppers, and bacon. As Joe Pesci found out in My Cousin Vinny, we take our grits seriously in the south. It's like a bastard child of couscous, polenta, and risotto. Usually it's just for breakfast, but we're gonna doll it up a little. And none of you jokers had better bring that instant grits crap around here. That ain't food! We've already got part of this done if you've made the bacon to get the fat for your cornbread, so that's good. Let's get the crawfish part settled.

Here's what you want:
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, with the fat
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 cup pinot grigio or similar white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
Put your butter in a saute pan on medium heat. Add shallots, peppers, and salt. Saute for 5-10 minutes.

Turn heat up to high and add your wine. Let that boil off for about a minute or two, bring the heat back down to medium, and add your crawfish tails and cayenne pepper. Cook for five minutes.

Take off the heat and add the cream and thyme.

Now we have crawfish and peppers! Time to get serious here. We need cheesy grits.

Real, proper grits. Paired with Grüyere cheese. Rather than making creamy smooth grits, we're going to bake them in ramekins for something a little different.

Here's what we'll need for the grits:

  • 1/2 cup yellow stone-ground grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup grüyere cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter + extra to butter ramekins
  • 1 tsp salt

Salt your water and get it to a boil. When you reach a boil, back down to low heat. Add your grits in a slow stream, stirring constantly.

Cover and stir occasionally. Ignore the package when it recommends cooking time. Grits cook slow. If you aren't cooking them slow you're doing it wrong. You should cook them for 45 minutes at minimum on low heat, stirring every 10 minutes give or take. The grits release loads of starch like risotto, and you want to encourage them to become creamy.

Remove the grits from the heat, and fold in your butter and cheese. To this, add your beaten egg. Butter up 3-4 ramekins and pour the grits in.

Preheat your oven to 350 and put your ramekins in a casserole dish or similar pan. Fill the dish with enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the ramekin, and cover the entire dish with foil. Carefully put the dish in the oven and bake for 350 degrees.

Remove from the oven and carefully open foil. Take a butter knife and gently slip between the grits and ramekin sides to release the grits from the ramekin.

Cover each ramekin with a large serving dish, and flip upside down to invert and un-mold the grits onto the plate. Raise your oven rack to the top and set the broiler on. Brown the top of your grits.

Remove from heat and let warm for a good ten minutes (this plate is hot as hell!). dole out the crawfish all around the grits. Crush a strip or two of bacon and crumble on top.

I wanted a creme brulee for dessert because it's about the most decadent thing I can put in my mouth. To give it a southern inspiration, I added a good half cup of processed pecans to the custard, because my wife doesn't like large pieces of nuts. Call it pecan "pie" brulee or what have you. Some of my favorite childhood memories of my grandparents' house involve the first cool days of fall, when pecans would start raining down in the pastures. My cousins and I would run around with grocery sacks, baskets, and anything, and gather pecans until it got dark. We'd eat enough to get nearly sick, and what was left over, my aunt would make into wonderful pecan pie. Next to my grandma's ugly-ass chocolate cake, it was the best dessert in the known world. I'm taking my grown-up love of creme brulee, and being a kid with it again.

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 quart heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar + more for the top
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely processed
  • 1 vanilla bean
Begin by splitting and scraping your vanilla bean. You can do this with a good pointed knife by jamming it in the middle and pulling on it until it unzips, then turning it around to fully split it. Once split, scrape out the tarry inside of the bean.

Combine the bean and scrapings with heavy cream in your sauce pot. Bring this just to the threshold of a boi and remove from the heat. Cover and let cool completely. Remove the bean and discard. Whisk in the eggs and sugar, and add your processed pecan to the cream.

Preheat the oven to 325. Get 4-6 ramekins and fill them with the cream. Put into a casserole dish and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekin sides.

Cover with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes or so, or until just barely set. Some of the pecan will rise to the top and give your custard a browned look. This is fine:

Cover and refrigerate a few hours, or up to a couple of days. About 30 minutes prior to eating, remove from the fridge. Dust enough sugar on the top to coat evenly.

My camera doesn't pick up sweet awesome blue fire from blowtorches. Take my word its awesome. Turn as you apply heat. Avoid buring sugar. Keep your flame moving and your sugar moving. Work outside in.

When you're done, you should have a nice sheen of caramel-colored sugar armor on top of your custard.

Whew! All that hard work! I must be insane. Where's the payoff? Here's the results:

Vidalia vichyssoise with cornbread

Fried green tomato gallettes with remoulade and blackened alligator

Baked grüyere grits with crawfish, red pepper, and bacon

Pecan creme brulee

Hope you enjoyed the recipes and my terrible pictures, and I hope you get a chance to make and enjoy some of this for yourself. Y'all come back now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Hops: Free at last!

Governor Bob Riley signs legislation increasing legal ABV percentage in beer sold in Alabama to 13.9%

I am so incredibly happy right now. It's hard to really explain to other people who don't live in Alabama the mind-boggling frustration you have to endure to figure out what's legal to buy and what isn't. We still can't have larger single-serve containers than a pint, and we still can't buy alcohol online, but this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully one of many to be taken. Ironic, considering that we're the only state in the union that has an "official state liquor" (which, incidentally, is pretty tasty, but still).

There's so much beer out there that I've yet to get my mitts on, and I feel like I'm 21 all over again!

Just before 10 a.m., Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed into law HB373, the Gourmet Beer Bill, which will raise the limit on alcohol content in beer sold in Alabama.

The bill’s passage follows a five-year struggle by Alabama’s grassroots gourmet beer advocacy group, Free the Hops, to raise the limit on the alcohol content of beer sold in Alabama from 6.0% to 13.9%. The higher limit will allow Alabama’s package stores, grocery stores, and bars and restaurants to sell and serve higher gravity beers.

After Alabama’s senate passed the gourmet beer bill last Thursday, Free the Hops mobilized its followers. The organizations urged its members and followers to call Gov. Riley’s office and encourage the governor to sign the bill into law. Free The Hops announced a final push for calls just hours before the governor signed the bill.

“I have been informed that our phone calls made the difference,” said a post on the FreeTheHops Twitter account after Riley signed the bill. “Everyone who called the Gov deserves credit for getting this done.”

What happens next? Well, first, we celebrate. J. Clyde will host a celebratory party tonight at 5 p.m. featuring cask ale from Birmingham brewer Good People. In Huntsville, a similar party will commence at 5 p.m. at The Nook.

After that, Free the Hops might look to other limits on Alabama’s beer and brewing, such as Alabama’s container size limit for beer.

For more information and updates, check the Free The Hops website or Twitter.

Birmingham Weekly Article


My wife and I have been foraging on and off in our back yard for the past few days and have been pulling up a bunch of blackberries. For some reason I've lived in the south my entire life but never really taken the time to forage for one of my favorite fruits. It's a happy accident that our yard is absolutely saturated with brambles in the back, and even in some places in front. I'll be making a lot of creme brulee, blackberry infused vodka, and all sorts of stuff. Either that or I'll just get lazy, and uh...


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I was listening to a saved podcast of The Splendid Table the other day on the way home from work, and there was a segment they ran that really pissed me off. The gist of it is that there is a term that is going around among young male bachelors to describe people who use their culinary skills to seduce a partner. They call people who do this "gastrosexuals". When I heard this, I rolled eyes so hard I nearly had to pull over in traffic to recover. Yes, we get it. Gotta have a label for every little bit of stupid crap. Got it the first time with metrosexual about a decade ago. It wasn't really clever or funny then either.

If any gastrosexuals find themselves reading this, let me go ahead and be clear: you're not special at all. I'm sorry, but people have been passing off their skill with chow since a cave man first dragged a hunted mammoth back to the cave and waggled his unibrow at Oog, with promises of unga bunga to come by firelight.

Food leads to sex. Say it with me people. You put effort into making a thing that not only nourishes and provides energy, but stimulates all five senses, and serve it to somebody you fancy, and it's going to set a mood. Now I'm not suggesting to share a spontaneous tender moment with the griddle cook at your local Benihana. Obviously not everybody you cook for is a target of sexual intent, and not every meal you consume is an invitation for the same, but it's a tool in the toolbox. We all know how it works when alcohol's involved, and we all get the idea about music. Food? Same thing. The fact that it took some smarmy thirty-something with an inferiority complex to create a name for obvious crap just makes me mad.

Way to rediscover that wheels are round and fire is hot. Maybe I'll go twitter with other wheelosexuals and fuegosexuals when I realize that people like making out in hot cars and by the glow of a fireplace on a cold night.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roti, India's wonderfully edible eating utensil.

I'm sick and tired of making curry and forgetting to have any flatbread with it. It's vital stuff. Flatbread is great for scooping up curry bits and sopping up delicious sauce. Why use a spoon when you can eat a flatbread and use it as a utensil at once? Naan is super tasty, but sometimes I don't really have the time or the yogurt to make it. In times like that, especially if I'm making something with a South Indian accent, I have to have Roti. Unlike Naan, Roti has no yeast, so you automatically get to skip the time-consuming act of rises and proofs. On top of that, it's mostly made from whole grain flour. This recipe is a riff from Dino's recipe, who has a great recipe. His calls for wheat germ (which I never have) and a blend of aromatic spices. Nothing wrong there, but I like to use ajowan and black onion seeds in my flatbread (If you can't find these, omit them, its not going to make or break this). He also uses all whole grain flour, where I prefer a 3:2 ratio of whole grain to semolina, to make it extra stretchy. You can find stuff called Durum Atta which would be even better for the task at Indian grocers, but my ratio works pretty well.

At any rate, enough rambling. Here's what you need:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup slightly warm water
  • 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp ajowan seeds
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil, for brushing

Begin by crushing your ajowan seeds. I use a mortar and pestle but whatever gets the job done is what you want. Also, go ahead and pre-heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat so it has time to absorb enough heat to cook.

Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and form a well. Add in your water.

Mix well to combine and form a dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead about ten minutes or so.

From here, chafe your dough into a ball and cut it into eight equal segments.

Ball up each segment as you work. Flour your work surface and rolling pin a little, and form a nice 10-12" circle, flipping and turning the dough as you go. You want the dough about 1/8" thick give or take.

Drop each rolled dough onto the skillet and let it cook for a couple of minutes, until the dough on top turns a slightly darker shade and it releases from the skillet, allowing you to move it with a spatula.

Flip that over, and use a spatula, griddle weight, or clean towel to press the roti firmly all over. That'll help it to puff a little. Cook another couple of minutes and remove from heat. Dab a little olive oil onto a paper towel and slather that on the roti before putting it on a plate and covering to keep warm.

Soon you'll have a nice warm stack of delicious-smelling roti. Hope you have some curry! If not, that's okay too. I like to snack on em even when I don't have curry. I keep a jar of mango pickle just for such an occasion.

If you haven't had mango pickle or any other Indian pickle before, it's basically fruit that's preserved in salt, oil, and spices. The flavor is very intense, and a little goes a long way. Since this is mango, it's a lot of chunky mango bits, peel included.


What you don't eat warm off the skillet, go ahead and wrap in foil and parchment paper. It'll keep in the freezer just fine, and you can reheat them whenever you feel the urge.

Once again, thanks Dino for another winning idea from your book. For anybody reading this, if you haven't gotten your copy of Alternative Vegan yet, do so ASAP. Even if you aren't vegan, it's definitely going to give you a wide variety of great ideas in the kitchen.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

My wife and I took my mom out for a great lunch at Satterfield's. She was excited the moment I mentioned it, because she'd always wanted to go there, but never quite got around to it. A bit of backstory, but my mom's work requires that she has to attend a certain amount of continuing education courses. These are usually funded by people with a lot more money than I have, and usually at fairly nice establishments in Birmingham. Ocean's, Daniel George, Highland's Bar & Grill, Bottega Favorita, the former Copper Grill, to name a few. To put it succinctly, she gets to eat out at really nice places on the boss's dime, which is something I've envied her for years for doing.

I had a lot of fun treating her today. She had a smoked salmon filet on an english pea cake that was almost like a sweet falafel. She loved that. It came with soft boiled quail eggs which she wasn't a fan of, and set aside. Her main dish was a total comfort food explosion of crawfish and andouille sausage, pan-fried peppers, and smoked gouda polenta. That definitely made her day. She's not into wine pairing and has a pretty set comfort zone on drinks (which is fine!) so she had a really good Riesling that was just barely off-dry.

My wife had a lot of asparagus apparently. Both her appetizer (jumbo asparagus tips) and entree (lobster cake benedict) had these almost comically-enormous asparagus stalks that were as thick as my thumb. Of course she had her lobster too because that's what she does! She had a strawberry pomegranate mojito, which I got to steal a sip on. I've had a lot of mohito variants, and some hit where others miss, but this one was really good. Very tart, slightly astringent, and a great summer drink.

I had a starter of oysters three ways, which was easily the best part of my meal. One oyster was a gulf oyster, done classically into Oysters Rockefeller. Very rich, very creamy, very French. The next was a blue point oyster with cucumber, capers, and a citrus granite. It was ice cold and the combination of tart citrus and capers with the brisk cucumber really made it taste light on the tongue. The final was a miniature bloody mary, with a beausoleil oyster at the bottom and tomato foam on top. This was crazy stuff, and I loved it. Of course, the whole experience of swallowing liquor and raw shellfish in one go was a bizarre one. The Worcestershire sauce really held it all together. Definitely got me in the mood for more oysters! I normally don't eat them unless I'm close to the coast, but nice places make the effort to fly in fresh, so its all good. When I wasn't sucking down bloody mary, I had some Perrier Jouët Grand Brut sparkling wine, which certainly helped sort out the Oysters Rockefeller. Both dish and wine were astounding.

My main was a medium rare hanger steak with arugula, sweet potato and leek hash, and scorched tomatoes. The hash was really sweet and tasty, and my steak was great, but it didn't offer any big surprises. Never had the cut before, so I'm now tempted to cook with it. I paired it with the Napa Cab they had on offer, which was good but not great.

Mom and I split a coconut frangipane (my wife's not a sweets person usually), which was a little coconut cake with bittersweet chocolate sauce in the center. Alongside that was some sort of pecan praline with a bitter caramel sauce, and then a sphere of coconut sorbet. I loved the praline though it nearly broke my mom's tooth when she bit it. Really good dessert for a coconut fan.

It was a great day and both my wife and I enjoyed meeting mom for dinner. I owe a lot to my mom for raising me right and for helping to urge me to try new things and inspire my epicurean curiosity. It's one of the endless things she's done with grace and charm, and it's only fitting that I say thank you from the bottom of my heart as much as I can, because it's still not enough.

Mom, I love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Steak and Arugula, revisited

Wife wanted steak tonight, and it's been a while since I've had some, so why not? I think the last time I've had any was before Lent, and I've been wanting to do another riff off my favorite steak dish - steak and arugula salad. I've posted on that before back in January, but I'm starting to feel like I'm refining my craft.

This time around, I didn't use any mushrooms or sauce, instead keeping it just steak and arugula as the main events. I did, however, add a sprinkling of cacao nibs on the top, which had that great bitter chocolate taste to further complement the Shiraz I had, and also amped up the bitter in the arugula, punching through the fat in the steak. Got my hand a little more steady on the cast iron also. Put a much more noticeable sear on this one, but didn't sacrifice the temperature of my steak to do it. I parked it under the broiler for five minutes which finished it off just right. Let it cool on a rack for about five minutes, then sliced it. The jus barely spotted my board as a result, and every bite of that steak was a sponge, full of moisture and flavor. My only regret here is that I want a much thicker steak to use the next time I do this.

What next time? I want horseradish in there. As long as it's not piled on, it's another bit player I think that can also help steak and arugula to hold hands.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pâté, cheap food that tastes rich

I love chicken livers. Being raised in the south, I first got acquainted to them as the perfect bait to catch catfish. Then, I discovered that they were pretty tasty when fried up. Then, I discovered pâté, and found my favorite use for the bloody, rubbery little lobes.

The beauty about making pâté from chicken livers is that they are dirt cheap. I bought a pound of them at the store for two bucks. That's the most expensive part of the dish. Did I mention this will feed six to eight people? All you really have to have on hand is time.

What you want:

  • 1 pound chicken livers, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme OR 4 large sage leaves
  • Milk

To begin, put your livers in a dish with a lid, and pour enough milk into that dish to cover the top of them all. Put the lid on, and let the livers sit in the milk overnight. This is crucial to getting your livers to taste right, no matter what you use them for. Chicken livers can have a ferric taste to them, that if unchecked, can be unpleasant. Sitting in milk will help to avoid this.

The next day, pour out the milk. Put your livers in the food processor. Add cream, egg, white pepper, and salt.

You want to run this on the high setting for at least a minute. I ran mine for about a minute and a half. The resulting liquid was viscous and pink. It kind of reminded me of Star Trek VI when the Klingon guys got killed in zero gravity and you had all of these crazy computer-generated globules of pink blood floating around. Pretty zany.

Anyway, go ahead and pour that Klingon blood into a terrine or a small baking dish. If you're an idiot like me who doesn't have a dish of the right size available, use some ramekins instead!

Snap your bay leaves in half and place them evenly. Add your fresh herbs too. Preheat the oven to 375. Place your dish or dishes into a larger dish, and fill it up with hot water. Cover your dishes and bake. It should go about 40 or 45 minutes. Check it at 40 with a knife to look for doneness. When you can dip the knife in and out and it comes up clean, you're ready.

Remove it from heat and let it cool. Pick out your herbs and bay leaves and discard. Re-cover, and set in the fridge to chill overnight.

Your pâté will be ready to eat the next day. Whatever you want to spread it on is okay. Crackers are good, and my wife likes to spread it on regular toast slices. Me personally, it's gotta be thin-sliced baguette. Best of both worlds, really.