Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vinegar Hill pâté, Fort Defiance pâté, Balthazar pâté?

...the same pâté. Give or take a goose liver or two.

It may be a well known phenomenon, explained by alumni of, I would guess, Balthazar, branching out into their own establishments in Brooklyn. One minute of Googling may reveal all. But I have always thought that these three restaurant's pâté's are remarkably similar. The same, even. The Balthazar one, served with caramelized, vinegary onions, and slices of charred bread, has long been an occasional treat for me. An affordable and perfect one-person lunch. Vinegar Hill's is served in a mason jar, with a scattering of pistachios, with a side charred bread, and is very similar to the one served at Fort Defiance with...charred bread and an oniony relish.

The silky texture. The lightness. I wasn't thinking. I should have cast my mind back to my early cooking days and Raymond Blanc's sinful, fat-laden chicken liver mousse, poached in a bain marie.

Instead, I found You Tube. And a video through which I fast forwarded to get to the kitchen, in Vinegar Hill. 
In one gesture the secret was laid bare: The chef poured raw chicken livers into a blender. Yes! Raymond Blanc's method came rushing back and I bounced into the kitchen, all of three feet away. Then I remembered the Balthazar Cookbook and bounced back to the laptop. Their chicken liver mousse recipe calls for the same raw livers, and half a pound of butter. That's two sticks. I decided to halve butter and make up the difference with cream. 

In the meantime, the graupel falling outside started to turn to snow. I didn't know what graupel was, either. Now I do. Snow pellets. Kind of. But it's very technical.

While I melted the butter on the stove I decided to infuse it with some garlic slivers. And I stripped the stalks of thyme so that the leaves went into the hot butter, too. I can't imagine making chicken liver pâté without thyme. I whooshed the cleaned livers with cream and butter until smooth. Added salt, quite a lot. And  beach-plum infused gin in lieu of the more traditional cognac. After the whooshing, the mixture had turned weirdly gelatinous and a quick reading of my Organic Valley cream carton revealed the culprit (I think): carrageenan. Drat. Better than xanthan gum, but really. Cream should be cream.

Into my motley crew of jars (I think this may be an excellent May foraging class snack ahead of the foraging walk- hence the transportable Mason jars) and then into the oven in a warm bath of water.

My Brooklyn Botanic Garden  foraging class and walk? Registration opens on April 1st.

I tasted the results early - it was still warm. I could not wait, hence the still-grainy texture, but I swear it was as smooth as the smoothest smooth thing you have ever tasted.

Today it is chilled and I'll test it again - the seasoning will be muted, and I may fiddle with it. I think this would be wonderful made with young, tender bayberry leaves, served with field garlic relish. Instant foraging class bona fides.

And after that, I made dinner. Spinach tagliatelle with wilted spinach and a few chopped livers sautéed with shallots and finished with Meyer lemons ('tis the season) for good measure.

The cat sat at our feet, feeling better than he has for a while, and helped us with the pieces of liver, and we drank wine and talked about camping recipes and fires and animals and just how cold we might feel at night in the Kruger Park in June.


  1. I love the snow that looks like powdered sugar coating the cow. But most of all, I love a mention of Estorbo and that he is feeling a bit better. *sigh*

  2. My mouth is watering! Love the jars and hope you'll notify when that Brooklyn Bot. Garden foraging class is ready for sign-ups!

  3. Just printed the recipe. Sounds wonderful ... and gave me a chance to use my unit conversion skills! double thanks.

    1. Here's one where it's been done for you, webb:


  4. Yum- and you've got a perfect pink colour too- did you sieve the mixture after you blended? I did the last time I made, but wondering perhaps I shouldn't have? x


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.