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Posts tagged ‘bacon’

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good


No…really…this is nothing more and nothing less than a small pumpkin stuffed with everything good!  As it is the first day (FINALLY) of fall weather here (actual rain is falling as I type), I will take a brief break from my tomato and corn obsession.

I am not the first to plaster this recipe on a blog…and I certainly won’t be the last.  This is surely a recipe that will span the test of time…and on the interwebs, that is not something to take lightly.  Take Pinterest for example; it is chock-full of seasonal sweets that utilize cookie dough, a popular candy bar and for good measure, some marshmallow fluff (examples found here, here and here).  Admittedly, my sweet tooth prefers understated, almost savory desserts (I’m not calling myself objective here!) and while these recipes have a purpose (bake-sales, holiday parties, novelty, etc.), our grandmothers would not recognize them from their recipe repertoire.  They are trends.  They may, in fact, even taste good…but they are not staples and certainly not classics.  I’m sure many out there disagree with me and that is fine…as I firmly believe that it takes all kinds.  This recipe is a classic for so many reasons – it is more an idea than a recipe, it is flexible, it is seasonal and does not waste any bits, it can be made up of leftovers and pantry items or each ingredient bought for its specific purpose, it is cheap and can serve a crowd.  For these reasons and many more, it has a place in my recipe box.  A quick google search will prove this true for many others.

The recipe is available all over the web, however I’ve posted it here is taken directly from Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table.  This dish epitomizes a perfect change of seasons dish…still emphasizing the freshness of squash while the filling is casserole and stuffing all wrapped into one.  Serve it with a crisp salad lightly dressed earlier in the fall or with some seared chicken sausages when a chill in the air is familiar and calls for heartier meals.

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment.

Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scrape any seeds and strings from the lid, do the same to the inside of the pumpkin.  Once it is cleaned to your satisfaction, liberally season the inside of the pumpkin with kosher salt and pepper, you can also drizzle a little bit of olive oil in there as well, but it doesn’t absolutely need it.  Place it on the parchment on the baking sheet.

Toss all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl (bread, cheese, garlic, onion, bacon, and herbs).  I had some kale on hand, so I chopped it up and tossed that in as well.  Season the mixtures with fresh ground pepper and some additional salt being careful not to over-salt as the cheese and bacon are already a bit salty.

Pack the mixture into the pumpkin…make sure it is filled!  We ended up with enough stuffing for an entire additional casserole dish which we buttered before adding the stuffing.

Mix the cream together with the nutmeg and of course, season with salt and pepper and then pour it over the stuffing into the pumpkin.

The cream provides the majority of the moisture for the stuffing, so don’t skimp…but your stuffing should not be swimming in the cream either.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  It was so cute, I could hardly stand it!

 

Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

I cut wedges and plated it with a lightly dressed salad the included some microgreens from Trader Joe’s.

The stuffing itself is delicious, but with a scoop of the tender pumpkin flesh, it is *literally* a perfect fall dinner.  I’ve got so many ideas of what to stuff a little pumpkin with…sausage, wild rice, apples, linguiza, chestnuts, the list is endless!  What would you stuff your pumpkin with?

It is wonderfully chilly outside now, but I need to temper my excitement for fall as the forecast is calling for 90’s next week.  Look for yet another post containing corn or tomatoes…or both.

 

 

Fresh Corn & Parmesan Pesto with Fettucine


I don’t know about you…but, I measure my summer in corn and tomatoes.  Looking through recent photos…I’ve gone a little heavy on the corn as of late.  I was flipping through a cookbook at my parents and this recipe for Corn and Parmesan Pesto with Tagliatelle immediately caught my eye!  Fresh pasta with a fresh corn pesto topped accented with a little bacon and fresh basil just screamed SUMMER to me!  I had to make it and make it, I did.

The book is The Farm: rustic recipes for a year of incredible food by Ian Knauer, and after making this dish and drooling over the photos throughout…it is definitely on my cookbook wish-list!  He also happens to have a blog as I found out while researching a bit and I have now bookmarked this recipe (dare I try yet another buttermilk panna cotta?) as well as this one for future endeavors.

I don’t know why I had not thought of corn pesto before…but it will for sure have a place in my summer repertoire from now on!  Hmmm…I wonder what other types of pesto I could make?  Mushroom pesto…what about a zucchini and summer squash pesto…?

The recipe (courtesy of Ian Knauer) is shown below and includes a few adaptations I made…adding bacon and scallions and using store-bought fresh fettucine pasta.

Ingredients:
3 tbsp.’s plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and black pepper
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 ounces of tagliatelle or fettucine
5-7 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-4 scallions, green and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¾ cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmer.  Add the corn, onion, garlic, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, and ¾teaspoon pepper and sauté until the corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer 1½ cups of the corn kernels to a small bowl.  Scrape the remaining corn mixture into a food processor.  Add the parmesan and the toasted pine nuts.  With the machine running, add the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and blend until the pesto is almost smooth.
  3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, according to package directions until al dente.  Reserve 1½ cups of the pasta-cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Return the pasta to the pot.
  4. Add the corn pesto, the reserved corn mixture and ½ cup of the basil leaves as well as the crumbled crispy bacon.
  5. Toss the pasta over medium heat until warmed through, adding the reserved pasta-cooking water to thin to the desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes.  Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the pasta to a large shallow bowl.  Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup basil leaves and the sliced scallions and serve with additional grated parmesan.

I doubled the recipe as I was feeding a crowd, and having leftover bacon (what a phenomenom…leftover…bacon…?) from breakfast, I couldn’t resist adding it to the dish.  I think the smoky bacon flavor countered the sweetness of the corn, the bite of the onions and the freshness of the basil really nicely.

Are you a corn purist?  Eating it straight up on the cob with melted butter and salt…or do you prefer your corn as kernels and mixed in and amongst other ingredients?

Spring Onion & Leek Crostada with Ricotta and Back Bacon


 

We love brunching, we frequently find ourselves trying out new places in town (like here, here or here) or venturing to old standby’s (including here, here, here and here) when the world is still quiet and sleepy.  Every now and then we are lucky enough to be invited over to friends’ houses where we can nibble bites and sip our coffee at a more leisurely pace.  A few Sunday’s back, we were just in luck and threw together a spring onion and leek crostada with back bacon and ricotta…all thanks to our CSA box from that week.

When I started cooking the back bacon – I’ll explain what it that is in a minute…I didn’t really have a firm plan about when I was making and how it would take shape.  When this happens, sometimes the end product is brilliant…and other times, well…that is when it’s time to stop by a bakery on your way over.  This time, it was lovely!  The spring onions and leeks from our CSA box were too beautiful to not use and they screamed to be the feature of a dish.

So back bacon is not made from pork belly – it is the center cut boneless pork loin and is much leaner and meatier than regular American bacon.  It might also be labeled as Irish bacon.  It can be tricky to find so regular, good ‘ole bacon will do just fine.  We found it at a Fresh & Easy market, whose parent company is British…which explains why they carry it.

I started by washing the leeks and then slicing the leeks and the spring onions into very thin slices.  The ramekin in the back holds none-other than rendered bacon fat.  We always have it in the fridge and it keeps very well.  Whenever you cook bacon, just strain the warm oil that was left in the pan and cool, then place in the fridge.  Dare I say, it makes a decadent grilled cheese and it is very spreadable!  I also prepared a short crust – something like you would use in a tart or a quiche – generally it is just flour, salt, cold butter chunks and a little ice water.  Whenever you are making a pastry dough, it is important to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. Which is plenty of time to slice and cook your onions and leeks and cook the bacon.  I sautéed the onions and leeks in butter and some of the bacon fat for about 5 or 6 minutes as I wanted them to sweat but not gain any color, and I seasoned them with fresh thyme.  Turn the oven on to 350º so it has plenty of time to reheat.

Next, I rolled out the crust and placed it on a piece of parchment on a half-sheet pan.  We had some ricotta left in the fridge which was perfect because this crostada needed something to hold it all together and work as a base.  I thinned the ricotta just a bit with some heavy cream and of course, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little more of the fresh thyme.  Spread it evenly on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1-2 inch border on all sides and top with the back bacon slices leaving at least 1 piece to sprinkle on top.  Next, spread the spring onions and leeks over the top and top with another sprinkle of salt.

Now, fold the pastry in towards the center starting on one edge and working your way around.  A crostada is not a fancy food…so it does not need to be perfect!  Top with the last slice of bacon either sliced or crumbled.  Count yourself lucky if you manage to hide the last piece from your husband who is trying to sneak as many nibbles as he can blaming his actions on pure famine!  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and some of the onions and leeks have crisped on top.

Our CSA box had also arrived full of late harvest citrus and some fresh mint…so we brought those along with us as well.  Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange and then slice the peel and as much of the pith off of all sides.

When serving citrus served like this, it is best to ‘supreme’ the fruit…I can’t figure out an easy way to write up instructions for you…but I found a great video on youtube that will show you exactly how to do it here.  Next, chiffonade some mint and toss it with the segments of orange – very refreshing and easy to eat as there is no pith or seeds to pick out of your teeth.

The crostada is delicious warm or room temperature and was a delightful addition to the brunch buffet.  It was crumbly and savory, with a nice oomph of onions and leeks!

What dishes have you made that turned out surprisingly well despite no real plan when you started?  We are always on the lookout for new recipes that travel well…what are your favorites for a potluck brunch?

 

DLW: Pasta Carbonara!


May is always a very busy month…and this one has been no exception.  Two college graduations, a multitude of birthdays (including my own), leaving my 8 to 5’ish job, and having visitors  – all of a sudden I cannot believe that it is almost June!  Many meals have been light snacks or potlucks, happy hours or small bites late in the evening.  We did manage to get this some-what homemade meal on the table a week or so ago…and it is one of my favorite quick dinners.

This particular evening, we used 1 package of fresh pasta (from the refrigerated section of the grocery store), half a package of bacon, 2 eggs and some grated parmesan cheese.  First – cook the bacon using whatever method you like the best.  When the bacon is close to being done, boil some water and salt it heavily.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions and then drain it, but make sure to keep 1-2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Meanwhile beat the eggs and season with salt and plenty of fresh cracked pepper  I throw the pasta back into the pot (make sure the heat is off) and then add 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of the cooking liquid and stir a bit.  Next you are going to slowly pour in the beaten eggs into the very warm pasta and the heat from the pasta helps cook the egg a bit and the starchy pasta water helps turn it into a delightful sauce.  It will thicken quite a bit, so don’t be shy with the pasta water.  Sprinkle in the parmesan cheese and the crumbled bacon and top with some fresh chopped parsley or thinly sliced green onions and another hit of black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Dinner is done!

Chicken Gorgonzola Pasta Salad with Bacon


D’Amico & Sons!  Ring a bell…?  If so, you probably live in Minnesota or Florida or have flown through MSP airport and had enough time to wander around for a bite to eat…and if this is so…you know what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t always one for pasta salads.  They were always bland and drenched in oil and vinegar and seemed to be a dumping ground for canned and often ignored veggies.  My nightmare of a pasta salad involves tri-color spiral pasta with a bottle of italian dressing, some canned sliced olives and if we are lucky…a dice of red bell pepper.  If that’s the best thing you can think of to do with some pasta…perhaps you should consider take-out!

Now that I’ve seen the light…I know the potential that lies in a well-thought-out pasta salad.  Think big…you probably can’t go wrong!  Visiting my husband’s family in Minneapolis, I was treated to D’Amico and Sons, and have been recreating various menu items ever since!

The weather has started to turn truly into spring in most of the country and what better way to welcome it than with a totally cold dish of hearty pasta?

Fun Fact:  Add buttermilk to regular mayonnaise and POOF!  You get ranch dressing.  No, really…nothing additional needed, unless you want it to look like ranch dressing, then you could add some things…ya know…like…herbs.  That’s it.  That’s all.  We were shocked – it tastes just exactly like ranch.  After we got over this fun little piece of info…we got on with the cooking chopping and mixing.

All ingredients in our version are just a guess…so we have chicken, not-all-the-way-sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, bacon and gorgonzola dressing.

I know it looks a little like butter…but it is actually really delicious creamy gorgonzola!  The dressing is simple…a little mayo, buttermilk, crumbled gorgonzola, salt and pepper.

Oh yeah, you’ll also need some pasta of your choice…cooked extra al dente!  Add the various components to the bowl, pour dressing over the top and drizzle.  Be conservative at first with the dressing, each piece should have a nice coating…but not be drowning in dressing.  Mix it up…then add the spinach.

Lastly, scoop onto a plate…and top with your perfectly cooked bacon crumbles!

Enjoy!

French Onion & Bacon Tart


No quiche here…this is a tart! Plain and simple in all it’s glory.

This is serious onion-y goodness…topped off with a little bacon.  Who can complain?  NO ONE…that is the answer.  If you say you don’t like onions, and I make you try this, and you still don’t like onions…I don’t think we can be friends.  This tart has the essence of all things good about onions, and none of the bad, and I sweetened the deal with bacon…c’mon…just try a little bit!

French Onion & Bacon Tart
recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Crust:
1¼ cup flour
1 scant tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (8 tbsp.) cold butter cubed
2 tbsp. ice water

Filling:
4-6 slices of bacon (your preference)
6 cups of sliced onions
1 sprig of thyme
2 eggs
½ cup of half & half
salt and pepper

Start with the crust.  This is a press-in crust, so no rolling of delicate pastry dough necessary.  You can mix everything and cut in the butter by hand…OR…you can use a Cuisinart or food processor.  Definitely the easier way to go.

Preheat the oven to 375º.  Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl and pulse a few times to mix.  Dump in all the butter and pulse about 15 times total.  You want to cut the butter up smaller than you would for a flaky pie crust.

Now, add in 2 tbsp. of the ice cold water and turn the machine on for 5-6 seconds.  You’ll know that you have the right amount of moisture in the dough by removing the lid, reaching in and grabbing a handful, squeeze it together and if it clumps…it’s perfect.  If it is still crumbly and does not stick together, then put the lid back on, add another ½ to 1 teaspoon of ice water and turn on again for another 5-6 seconds.

Here’s the fun part…just grab some handfuls, drop them into a greased tart pan and start pressing it in.  Try and make it an even layer across the bottom of the pan.

Continue pressing and work the dough up the sides of the pan.  If it is too thick in one area, go ahead and pinch it off, then smush it back where it’s a little thin.  This took a little more time than I anticipated, but some saran wrap can do wonders to help you smooth out the surface.  Place a piece over the top of the dough, and rub the surface.  The heat of your hand and the pressure will smooth out all the lumps.  To avoid shrinkage…(no one likes shrinkage!)…place it on a plate and put it in the freezer to firm up and rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, you can prep your ingredients for the filling.  Slice up 1-2 onions in ¼ to ½ inch strips.  The onions will cook down quite a bit, so you’ll probably need more than you think.  Steer clear of sweet onions and red onions for this recipe.  The first is too sweet and the second will tint everything a bit of a mauve color…not the effect you’re looking for.

Throw your bacon strips into a cold pan.  Letting the strips warm up with the pan (only to medium heat) will make crispy bacon with a lot of the fat rendered out.  Putting bacon straight into a hot pan, will cook it faster, but you can end up with bacon that is over and under cooked all at the same time.  Once bacon is cooked, remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Depending on how much bacon fat is left in the pan, you may want to drain some of it…but what you leave in the pan will add bacon-y smoky flavor to your onions!  (drool!)

Toss the onions into the pan, toss to coat, add in a sprig of thyme, a good sprinkling of salt and keep the heat medium or just below.  You want to almost steep the onions, and avoid browning them which can make them too sweet.  Once you’ve tossed them around a bit, throw a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and let them cook, sweat and steam for about 20 minutes.

Switch back to crust – pull it out of the freezer, place it on a cookie sheet, add a sheet of foil on top and press it in gently and then fill with your favorite pie weight (dry beans, rice, actual pie weights, marbles, ball bearings, something heavy that won’t mind some serious heat!).  Place in the oven for 30 minutes while the onions are cooking.

Custard Time!  The custard for this recipe is just a glue…binds it all together and is a tasty backdrop to the star of the show, Monsieur Onion!  Beat the eggs and add in the half and half, a grind or two of black pepper and a touch of salt, mix well and set aside.

You may wonder about the lack of pictures for this part of the recipe…well, there are moments while cooking, that I completely forget to get pictures and only later realize that I missed about half the process.  Use your imagination!

While you are waiting, try not to snack on all the bacon.  If we’re being honest, I find this step the most difficult.

Check on the onions, they should be translucent, soft and very fragrant.  Remove them from the heat and cool long enough that they won’t cook the eggs when added to the custard.  When the crust comes out, remove the pie weights and foil.  Remove the thyme sprigs from the onions and mix them into the custard.  Pour it all into the tart crust, sprinkle with bacon pieces and put it back in the 375º oven for 25-30 minutes on the middle rack.

You’ll know the tart is done when a) you can no longer handle how good your kitchen smells, and b) when the custard is fully set…it shouldn’t jiggle!

I love the bacon on top because it stays crisp, unlike when it is added to the custard of quiche’s and it softens up.  Carefully remove the rim of the tart pan, once it is cooled and then you can cut a slice and serve it up.  This made a perfect dinner with a simple salad of mixed greens dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil and served with a crisp, dry white wine!

Bon appétit!

Roadblocks and Fettuccine


Dear Reader.  I’ve been neglecting you.  I know, I know…what could be so hard about cooking up some dishes, taking some photos and then writing about it?  In theory…not much.  Add in an unrelenting work schedule, a trip out-of-town, a (pathetic) attempt at getting some regular exercise and it gets more interesting.  But all of those are just excuses.  Yep, I just admitted it…just excuses…which is really no excuse at all.

courtesy of savagechickens.com

More importantly, I’ve been feeling some mental blockage when it comes to posting.  I have thought long and hard about this…which has gone nowhere.   Maybe you too have been thwarted in your projects and tasks.  Alright, I know part of it is wanting to make sure that everything is the best it can be…but being the best and being timely don’t always play nice together.  So…I’ve got to pick one and clearly lately I’ve been on team best without actually doing any work.  Also…I always want to post a lot of photos…and volume + photos I love = time-consuming.  Let’s loosen things up.  New goals: a) post more even if it means posting fewer photos; b) stress less about the words and the photos and get the post up.  Simple, right…?  Let’s start now.

Fresh Fettucine with Pheasant, Butternut Squash, and Bacon

Fresh pasta is a beautiful thing.  From the delicate but firm mouth feel to the slight chewiness…it just might be one of my favorite things…and when I make it I feel like I’m playing with the Play-doh noodle makers again!  This pasta recipe is the same one used in this post and can be found here courtesy of Jamie Oliver.  Obviously, you can cut your own fettucine with a pizza roller or pastry cutter/knife…I went with the KitchenAid attachment since I had yet to use mine! Originally I was planning on drying this pasta for use at a later date – until I realized I didn’t know very much about drying pasta and let’s not forget to mention that it is winter here in Southern California and that means rain, and dampness, and running a de-humidifier constantly in the house…so drying pasta is pretty much the opposite of what was going on in our house.

{Notes to self regarding future attempt to dry pasta:  1.  Air circulation is key – place drying rack underneath pasta.  2.  Although pretty, resist urge to pile pasta in a heap on counter.  3.  Portion out pasta for predicted serving size.}

Okay, moving on.  We threw this dish together with leftovers and items we already had in the fridge – diced and roasted butternut squash, chunked up pheasant breast (shot by none other than Woody himself) and bacon (our house is rarely without an open package of bacon in the fridge).  These ingredients along with some fresh herbs, heavy cream, parmesan and sliced shallots made a fine dinner!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese, Shallots, Bacon & Thyme


Dinner last week…

There is not one thing on this delicious piece of crust that was a disappointment.  The crust was great and even better on the next day when it rolled out thinner and crispier!

Dinner Last Week…


Bacon, Onion, Herb and Gouda Quiche

Last week was hectic.  I was getting over a cold…it was a week where we tried to see everyone before they left town on summer adventures, where we barely cooked…and where I had to think about and actually do lots of packing.  If you know me at all…you know I have issues packing.  We managed to pull off a quiche on Sunday night, hoping for leftovers for lunches during the week.

This quiche is slightly different.  You might notice the crust looks a little flakier, a little puffier – well…it’s puff pastry.  Besides being a little raggedy…it works very well.  The filling was onions, bacon, herbs and some aged gouda.  We were scrounging the dregs of the fridge since we left town on Friday…so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge.

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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