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Posts from the ‘Daring Cooks Challenges’ Category

Orange Polenta Cake with Blackberries & Plums


Desserts in the summer should be delightful.  Fresh and vibrant.  I think you get a little more leeway with summer desserts…it can be an unexpected little something to try…so serious expectations.  So I say, run with it.  Try something new, be a little different and surprising!  Polenta cake fits the bill.  Think of this as somewhere in between corn bread and a citrus cake.

(Although I did not get the post up right on time, this cake was inspired by the Daring Cooks August Challenge…credit where credit is due!)

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Original recipe can be found here at from the Bon Appetit website and is also on epicurious!

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup medium-fine polenta or organic cornmeal (such as Bob’s Red Mill)1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated orange peel
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole-milk greek yogurt
3 plums, sliced with pits removed
½ pint blackberries

Preparation

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan.  (I used a mini bundt pan and a quarter size loaf pan which seemed to hold all the batter.)  Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 1 1/4 cups flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

I used Golden Pheasant Polenta and the texture was perfect – coarse enough to notice but not so much that it ruined the texture of the cake batter!

Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with yogurt in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Spread batter evenly in pan.Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes (my mini pans took less time…I started them with 35 minutes and tested every few minutes after).

In the meantime, prepare the plums and blackberries so they have enough time to macerate.

Halve the plums (I used 3) and remove the pit and then slice somewhat thinly.  Add in a handful of blackberries and sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar.

Toss gently and let sit for at least an hour.

Transfer to rack; cool in pan 15 minutes.

Run knife around cake edges to loosen. Invert cake onto rack, then invert again on rack (top side up). Cool completely. 

Cut cake crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; serve with sugared plums and blackberries.

And for a little extra ummmpffff…top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

{Epilogue}

This cake was delicious the next morning, sliced, toasted and spread with just a bit of butter.  I may have eaten it for a week straight this way!

Enjoy!

Smoky Peppadew & Paprika Potato Salad


Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

What says summer more than potato salad?  School’s out, the days are long, the weather is delightful okay…actually…our weather is fine…but June Gloom is in full effect!  A quick look outside would make you think it was chilly and dreary…but by 4 o’clock the sun is usually burning through the clouds and making an appearance.  We felt like breaking out our barbecue for the first time this year, throwing some hot dogs on the grill and eating on the patio.  Woody insisted on straightforward sides – as in cheetos…but don’t worry…we bumped the level of sophistication by getting the Baked Cheetos (did you know they make these…and they are delicious…there is hardly any difference in taste from the real fried ones…makes me wonder why they fry them in the first place!…I digress).

I love a good ‘ole standard mayo-based potato salad…but the Daring Cooks challenge calls for a healthier version., and we switched up the flavor profile a bit to make it a little more interesting.  Never a dull day around here!

Smoky Peppadew & Paprika Potato Salad

Servings: 4
Ingredients:
1 pound small red creamer potatoes or any other baby reds
3 peppadew pickled peppers,diced small
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing Ingredients:
½ cup greek yogurt (we use Fage Greek yogurt)
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ to ½ tsp. harissa paste (to taste)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. of Pickapeppa sauce
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. of sea salt and a grind or two of pepper

Directions:
1. Scrub potatoes and leave on skins, cut into quarters
2. Boil potatoes till tender, about 15-20 minutes
3. Drain and cool
4. Dice peppadew peppers
5. Mix dressing, add peppadew peppers, taste for seasoning, and then toss in the cooled potatoes
6. Add in the sliced green onions and fresh cilantro and toss gently to mix
7. Chill and garnish with fresh cilantro and serve!

Yogurt.  Put it in the bowl.

Peppadew peppers are delicious…a mild and sweet pepper that is pickled and originates from South Africa.  Our favorite way to serve peppadews is whole, stuffed with goat cheese and topped with some fresh ground pepper and parsley.  These peppers have become very available in the last few years, you can find them in jars on the pickle or roasted pepper aisle in the grocery store, or more recently, they are pretty common in the olive bar area as well.

Slice and dice the peppers and set aside.  Harissa is hot chili paste used in many parts of North Africa and adds another complex flavor and a bit of heat to the dressing.

Add the peppadews, paprika and harissa to the yogurt along with a squeeze of lemon.  The peppadews add a bit of vinegar to the dressing, so not much lemon is needed.

Mix it all up.

Add in the potatoes and stir gently.

Add the green onions

Chill and serve.

BONUS!  I didn’t stop at one potato salad…nope…I made two.  ‘Cause I’m crazy like that!  This next one is a bit more traditional but still on the healthy side, recipe is a variation of Jami Sorrento’s Creamy Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad, our hostess for the June Daring Cooks Challenge.

Creamy Yogurt & Dill Potato Salad

Servings: 4
Ingredients:
1 pound small red creamer potatoes or any other baby reds
1-2 Celery stalks, sliced thinly

Dressing Ingredients:
3 tablespoons fresh dill
½ cup greek yogurt (we use Fage Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of ½ fresh lemon
Dash of Champagne Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dill for garnish

Directions:
1. Scrub potatoes and leave on skins, and cut into quarters
2. Boil potatoes till tender, about 15-20 minutes
3. Drain and cool
4. Slice celery
5. Mix dressing, taste for seasoning, then add cooled potatoes and celery
6. Chill and garnish with dill sprigs before serving.

Together at last…

Sit down and enjoy…hot dogs, baked cheetos, greens and of course – Potato Salads!

So Good Soba & Tempura Greatness


A little late I know…but better late than never… (and it is, technically, still February!)

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.

Having never made soba noodles before, I was unsure of what to expect.  In fact, although there are many steps in making cold soba and tempura…it is actually quite a simple dish.  You start by boiling the soba noodles.  I followed the directions on the package and let them cook up for 4 minutes, drained them and then plunged them into cold water to stop the cooking.

Next up was the broth for the soba…

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce:

Ingredients
2 cups basic vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)

Heat the mirin gently and then add in the soy sauce and vegetable stock.  The Mentsuyu is typically made with Kombu Dashi, which I did not get my hands on soon enough, so I substituted vegetable stock and added just a bit of powdered miso soup broth for a little more flavor.

Vegetables, a beautiful thing!  All the fresh ingredients for the tempura on the right and all the toppings for the cold soba in the upper right.  Clockwise, starting at the tofu:  tofu, edamame, nori, julienne of cucumber, green onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and green beans!  Time to make the tempura batter…

Tempura batter works best when it is very cold.  Although it’s a bit hard to tell…pictured above is a clear mixing bowl set atop some ice water in a metal mixing bowl.

Ingredients
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water (or
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep-frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)

Directions:

Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well.

Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.

Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be between 320° and 345°F. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.  I used an electric fondue pot, which has a variable temperature dial.  I checked to make sure the oil was hot enough with a thermometer.

Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, which won’t leave a strong odor in the oil.   Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep-frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.

Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.

Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

A quick dipping sauce can be made with garlic paste, soy sauce and ponzu, and if you like it spicy, add a small dollop of Sriracha!  We enjoyed the tempura with a crisp white wine with some acidity to it, which is always great with fried food.

We made sure to gobble all the tempura while it was still hot and crispy, so we saved the soba for our second course.

Besides the broth, there is an additional dipping sauce for the soba.

Ingredients
¾ cup green onions finely sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ teaspoon  granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

All the ingredients should be chilled or room temperature.  To build your dish, pile noodles into a bowl.  Spoon 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of the broth over the noodles, and then begin adding toppings per your tastes.  I used julienned cucumber, nori strips, edamame, green onions and a dot of Sriracha.  Serve with the dipping sauce on the side, grab noodles with chopsticks, dip into sauce, and then slurp it all up.

Kanpai!

Almond Chicken Makhani


Almond butter…the reason for this recipe…so simple and so good…and really…why not make your own.  It takes hardly any time, and you can control the salt and what kind of oil and how much to add!  If you haven’t done this before…do it.  It is an interesting exercise to see what flavor you get…and how much salt is necessary for your tastes…and there are hundreds of recipes that involve some kind of nut butter.

Start with almonds, throw them into the food processor and grind away.   It will be very loud!  You might have to yell to hear yourself think!

Continue to grind, and it will begin to look mealy.  If you like your nut butter chunky…you have a couple of options.  You could grind a completely smooth batch, and then add some roughly chopped almonds, or you can grind a portion of the nuts to the consistency you want and then add whole nuts for a few more pulses of the blade.

You will need to add oil at some point, otherwise, you will have more of a nut paste.  Remember also, that the type of oil you use will have an impact on the flavor as well…so I would stay away from very strongly flavored oils, unless your goal is to make a garlic almond butter to use in savory dishes…just don’t plan on making any nut butter and jelly sandwiches.  And, salt really helps bring out the flavor of any nut butter and is overly present in many commercial varieties.

On to the task at hand.  Chicken Makhani!

If I had known that this was this easy to make…I would have saved many a take-out night when we lived in Boston.  Makhani was one of the first Indian dishes that I explored…and turns out…I loved it.  And who wouldn’t…the description on almost any Indian restaurant’s menu of ‘butter chicken‘ is pretty irresistible.  I recognize, that this is not a completely authentic makhani recipe…but the basic flavor profile is there.  I swapped out typically used cashews for almonds and yogurt for milk.  Perhaps I’ve misnamed…but it is what my mouth thought of!

Almond Chicken Makhani
recipe adapted from www.morepleasebymargie.blogspot.com

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons  garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce:
4 tablespoons  butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup almond butter
⅓ cup  milk
½ to ¾ cup  chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup frozen peas

Cook the chicken.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. If needed, cook the chicken in two batches to avoid crowding the pan.  Set aside on clean plate and keep warm.

Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion (I sliced half the onion in strips and left the other half whole) and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine.

Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly.

Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer.

Add broth or water (I used water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.

Remove onion (the half or both halves if you followed the recipe exactly) from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas into sauce. Transfer chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a few sliced almonds.

This was great on the table that night…and even better as leftovers the next few days.  I would make one change when making this again…as the flavors were a little heavy on the cinnamon.  Woody remarked that our kitchen smelled like a CinnaBon stand when I reheated it the following night.  It is a definite keeper,  as a recipe and a method!

Savory Pecan Cream with Chicken & Egg Noodles


The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

*Important*  The following recipe does not include any cream, milk, or half and half, despite appearances and taste…no cows were involved in the making of this dish.  (I know…it’s hard to believe – since I love the stuff and rarely abstain from a little pour, a touch of cream, a dollop of dairy.)

I was intrigued with the challenge this month and was excited to try a couple of the recipes…unfortunately…somehow July has been a challenging month to find the time.  I was able to complete the challenge on time…but getting a post written is often times the greater challenge.

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms

Ingredients:

Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
1 cup water
¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed

½ pound egg noodles or pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
1 tablespoon deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Chopped pecans – optional garnish

First, toast up your pecans to deepen the flavor – put them in a dry skillet over medium heat and give the pan a shake every so often.  Make sure just to toast – not burn…and this burning I speak of can happen quite fast…so no walking away from the stove and forgetting about what is going on.

Next, prepare the pecan cream. Grind pecans in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream.

Yummm….delicious nutty cream (sans cream).

Pound chicken to 1/2 inch thickness to promote even cooking.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil and a little butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

Chop the shallots and slice the mushrooms.

Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits – these are my favorite part.  The browned bits.  If needed, add another teaspoon of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms.

Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown.

I am drooling…I love mushrooms…especially when combined with butter and some kind of oniony thing.

Add fresh thyme to the pan.

Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

Slice the chicken breast, place atop egg noodles and ladle the pecan cream over the top.  I finished the dish with some microgreens!

One would SWEAR that there are LOADS of cream, heavy cream, whipping cream…in this dish…but alas there is NONE!  This will definitely be a keeper for those times when we’re entertaining any lactose intolerant guests.  Also…it was just good.  The sauce keeps a bit of the graininess from the chopped pecans and is rich and decadent.  Be careful not to over-salt the pecan cream…it’s hard to fix that one.

French Baguette


As a secondary part of the Daring Cooks Challenge for this last month, I was supposed to bake a baguette.  As pâté is an undertaking in and of itself…I just couldn’t bring myself to do them on the same day.  Now, you should also understand that I intended on eating the pâté with the baguette…so it all works out in the end.  With no further delay…I bring you…true, traditional, authentic baguette.

Having never made baguette before…I was skeptical about getting a true authentic Parisian taste…but on the other hand…the first step in the recipe was to make a starter.

A little yeast, flour and cool water + 18 hours = baguette starter.

French Baguette
yield: Three 16″ baguettes

Starter
1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour
Dough
1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.


Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14-18 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough.

Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again.

With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log.

Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they’ve become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC).

Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette.  Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.

Bake the baguettes until they’re a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

The taste of the bread was spot on…which surprised me.  It was delicious, still warm from the oven spread with a little butter and sprinkled with sea salt.

The next day, it was also fantastic as a pâté sandwich with some cornichons, stout mustard, mayonnaise, and sea salt.

High West Chicken Liver Pâté


The Daring Cooks strike again!  And this time…it was Pâté time…!

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

As I logged in to The Daring Cooks website to see what the challenge for June would be…I was filled with anticipation…and then I read the challenge – pâté.  Seriously…pâté, really….?  ‘Cause pâté has not been #1 on my list of things to make…but…okay…I guess.  Pâté it is.  Now if I were going to cook pâté…it was not going to be some vegetable terrine…it was going to be the real thing.  Authentic pâté, like with liver and everything!

So, I set out to collect the ingredients for such a culinary endeavor.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find fresh chicken livers…?  I realize I live in L.A. and can most likely find anything and everything I want or would need for almost any dish…but it’s really dependent on looking in the right place.

My first thought was that I would be able to find all of the ingredients at my local Whole Foods…yeah, nope…not at all…I actually struck out entirely…and almost had to put off then entire project until the next weekend.  I then drove to our favorite Latino supermarket – King Ranch…and yep, they were able to supply half of my list…including pork belly and pork blade, but I was still having trouble finding fresh chicken livers.  On a whim, and not wanting to end up at home with all but one ingredient…I thought, maybe…just maybe, Ralph’s might have them.  Yes and no.  Yes they had them, but no I was not going to buy them.  Soupy, liquidy, pre-packaged livers from Foster Farms…nope…a big fat NO!  I couldn’t do it…especially not for a pâté.

I ended up at home, deflated after a morning spent first at the farmer’s market, and then with stops at no fewer than 3 different grocery stores , and still did not have all that I needed.  But I did have the internet.  After a few searches, including on Yelp… I found a place.  Taylor’s Meat Market in Sierra Madre.  After a quick call, I rushed out the door, fearing that as a small place, they might not be open on Sundays, and it was memorial day weekend…and I assumed they would be closed on Monday as well.

I walked in and immediately knew I had found us a butcher.  A real honest-to-goodness butcher.  Total: $1.77 for 14 oz. of chicken livers…FRESH chicken livers!  I was ready…pâté cooking would commence in the morning.

Onions…?  Check.

Livers…? Check.

Duck Fat…?  Check

It just really wouldn’t be right to start out a pâté with olive oil, and luckily, we happen to still have a sizable quantity of duck fat lying around in our fridge.

Oh…maybe I should let you in on something…it’s called the recipe…

1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
2 shallots, chopped
1 tsp quatre-épices (or ¼ tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
2 eggs
200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
Salt and pepper
NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork.
Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside.
Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.
Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the
chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry.
Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil.
Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.
Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry.
Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold.
Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.
NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.

Start out sautéing the roughly chopped onions…making sure to just sweat them, don’t brown or caramelize them as you don’t want that sweetness.

Now, bring in the liquor.  I mean, here are all the other ingredients…or not all, but some.  Okay, moving on.  Oh wait…the Whiskey…I forgot to tell you all about the namesake of the recipe.

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey – this is not just any whiskey.  This is risky whiskey.  This is Utah whiskey.  Utah…Whiskey…I’ll say it again, because it may not have registered in your brain…those two words… together…at last.  Now the secret is out, Utah is making liquor…call in the reinforcements…the gentiles are out of control.  I think it was only a matter of time; Utah’s long been known for their microbrews, so it is not surprising that someone wanted to brew something a bit stronger…more surprising…is that it’s LEGAL.

High West Distillery is the first legally licensed distillery in the state since the end of Prohibition.  Whiskey takes time, so the Rendezvous Rye whiskey is a blend of a 6 year-old whiskey and a 16 year-old whiskey.  High West blends the whiskey with local Utah waters and bottles it until their ‘distilled in-state’ whiskeys are aged and ready.  But this isn’t moonshine…it is surprisingly good…and even earned a place in the ‘Top 10 New Whiskey’s of 2008″ according to Malt Advocate Magazine.

Okay, back to the stove.  Once the onions have softened…dump in the livers.  Being somewhat gentle with them, toss them around a bit, coat them in onions…get ‘em cookin’.

At this point, it is important to note…that your entire house will begin to reek of LIVER.  You may not think you know what the smell of liver is…but trust me…you do.  If you have a dog…she will be going a bit insane, her nose working overtime, and her drooling uncontrollable.  It’s a meaty smell, not a bad one…but certainly distinct.  Just be prepared…(not that you can turn back now)…but your house will probably smell like liver and onions for 2 days.  Don’t worry, I’m sure the furniture will recover.

Once the liver has cooked through – I think it took about 10 minutes or so…it’s time for the fire.  Yep…not only did I tackle a recipe with organs, 3 kinds of pork, duck fat, grinding, puréeing, and of course…don’t forget the whole unmolding process…but I will also be flambéing.  It’s probably a good thing that Woody was busy at work through all this.

Safety first…I’m always thinking safety first – even though that might not ultimately affect the outcome.  So…first, when you’re ready…turn off the burner and remove your pan from the heat.  Then pour in the alcohol.  Next, light the alcohol with a lighter.  Done properly, you should see a blue flame…done improperly…you’ll need to call the fire department.  Make sure to swirl the pan so the flavor of the alcohol gets incorporated.

*Warning*  RAW MEAT!  There are a lot of raw meat photos…if it bothers you…skip down to the end.  Although, if all the porky goodness really bothers you…we might not be able to be friends anymore.

First – bacon.  Raw bacon is added to the pâté mixture after it’s roughly chopped.

Mmmmmmm….pork belly!  Skin and all…it is just what it says…the belly of the pork…err…pig.

Recipe called for ground pork blade…also known as shoulder…I ended up purchasing a package with thinly sliced, bone in, pork blade cutlets.

I trimmed them a bit and removed the bone, and gave them a rough chop.

Before beginning the mixing process, I wanted to have my mis en place ready to speed along the process.

Chopped shallots…

Quatre épices…aka ginger, ground pepper, nutmeg, and cloves.  Woody was a bit worried about these spices…but after tasting the final product…they are completely necessary to get a true flavor of pâté.

Thyme, shallots, and spices

I was unsure of exactly how many pans I would need for the pate…and how full each pan should be.

Don’t forget about the bacon, heavy cream and the eggs.

Grind the pork shoulder in your cuisinart, then dump in your chopped pork belly…and grind again.

Once you’ve reached a pleasant consistency, go ahead and dump in the cooled liver and onion mixture.  Pulse again.

And last into the cuisinart fun pool…shallots.  Toss ‘em in and pulse a few times.

Dump everything into a large bowl.

*Note*  At this point, you might think to yourself…”eeewwwwwww!  It looks (and smells) a little too much like canned cat food.”  You might actually gag a little and feel as though someone has played a terrible joke on you by telling you that this is a real recipe, and ‘I promise…it’ll taste good’.  No…?  This didn’t occur to you…you didn’t have these exact thoughts…?  So you’re saying it’s just me…?  Okay…ummm…yeah…next step, please!

Add in the bacon…

Dump in the eggs…

…and the cream, thyme and spices…

DON’T FORGET TO SEASON.  I say yell this to make sure you won’t forget.  If you look closely, I did season…some salt and some pepper…and then a little more salt.  Hindsight is 20/20 and if you don’t season at every step…your dish will be bland.  Now…of course my pâté was not bland…never, but it could have certainly used a touch more salt.  For the extremely type A/anal/perfectionist cook…there is a fail safe way to make sure that you have the seasoning right…and they make you do this in cooking school…I’ve given fair warning.  Ideally you can bake, poach, fry, cook a small spoonful or canelle of the mixture until it is cooked through, then taste it and adjust the seasoning accordingly.  I did not do this…and the pâté could have used more salt.

Spread the mixture evenly in the dishes…no need to grease the pans…recall the 3 fatty delicious types of pork used!?!

Boil water for the bain-marie (fancy french term for a simple water bath).

Cover all dishes tightly with foil…no one like dry pâté.

*I had a small genius moment…always conscious of the potential for cuts, burns and the like, I thought to myself…”why not put the pans in the hot oven…and THEN pour in the BOILING water?“…all to avoid the sloshing of scalding water onto my delicate hands already scarred from time spent in professional kitchens.  I know, it’s the small successes.  I’m sure you all knew this and have felt smart for years…but let me bask for just a moment.

They go in the oven covered at a high temp, then the oven gets turned down,and they cook for a long time…then you pull the foil off and let the tops brown a bit before pulling them out of the oven and letting them cool.

*Note* Your house will now smell even more like liver…just letting you know.  There’s no turning back.

Make sure to let them cool entirely, refrigerate overnight or even for a couple of days in the pan.  If you unmold them while they are still warm, you will lose a lot of the fat that would get reabsorbed, and even though you had them covered for most of the cooking time…you’ll still get dry pâté.

I waited days, and by then…it looked like this when I unmolded it.

I trimmed just a little, mainly so it would sit flat on the plate, and wiped away some of the gelatin that was in a few places.

Tah Dah!

Slice thinly and plate with cornichon.

Serve with bread of choice, flake sea salt…and enjoy!

Whewwww!  That was a marathon of a post.  Perhaps my longest post to date…but in fairness, also in the top 3 for longest cooking project.  If you’re inspired to make this…please tell me…how did it go for you…?  Do you like pâté?

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