Recently, I received a windfall of duck livers. My friend Bethany got a new duck cookbook and had, over the last few months, cooked who knows how many ducks in who knows how many delicious ways. Bethany has been my neighbor while she attended medical school nearby, but I’ve known her since she was a teenager and we have cooked Thanksgiving together for eight (?) years. A month ago, she moved to Akron, Ohio to do her surgery residency. I already miss her a lot. Before she left, she and her mother, who was in town for her graduation, came over to cook up the last few ducks. We made duck legs braised with leeks and sauerkraut and an amazing duck giblet soup with dried fruit and potato dumplings. I will be making the second one again once duck cooking weather returns. Bethany also left me with some lovely duck breasts and a bag full of duck livers.
Bethany moved a few days later and I made duck liver pâté by myself. I have never made pâté before, and was delighted that it turned out to be easy. I took the pâté, along with this amazing bread from the blog My New Roots and some pickled plums to share with everyone backstage at a show I was performing in. I love feeding people. It is my favourite form of social interaction. Although it was delicious, and a good way to make new friends, I might not have bothered to make duck liver pâté again or share it here. I just don’t happen into a big bag of duck livers every day! However, my friend Barbara came to see the show, after which I forced her to try some of my pâté. About a week later, Barbara requested some more pâté.
Barbara is an awesome cook and fellow lover of food. I used to tour with puppet shows that Barbara produced, and she accommodated my cooking obsession to a degree that I cannot imagine anyone else would. She tried to always made sure that I had access to a kitchen. She would write into my itinerary when and who would be taking me to a decent grocery store upon arriving in a new city. Once she personally drove me to a grocery store, so that I could get butter to make biscuits. To be clear, I am not really the sort of rock star who gets to demand special foods on a tour. Barbara had a lot of other, arguably more pressing, matters to attend to. I think that she was just sympathetic to my interest in food…or maybe she was just clever enough to realize that I am a MUCH more focused employee if all of my food plans are properly laid out.
So, Barbara inspired me to seek out more duck livers (Union Square Green Market), make the pâté again and write out the recipe. Now that all of that work is done, I will probably make this pâté again in the future! I like to eat duck liver pâté on this amazing bread with Pickled Plums or Rhubarb Chutney. This recipe makes three half pint jars and as long as you do not break the butter seal they will keep in the fridge for a good long while. Duck liver pâté is rich, I mean really, really rich. So although it keeps well, it is not the sort of thing that you consume all by yourself. It is the sort of thing that you share with friends. I took one jar to Barbara, one to a BBQ (where my friend Paul took this lovely photo) and one to an after work birthday picnic for my friend Laura. Maybe I will make a batch with Bethany when I go to visit her someday in Akron.
DUCK LIVER PATE
adapted from Jaime Oliver’s Chicken Liver Sage Parfait
- 2 and 1/2 sticks (20 Tablespoons) softened butter
- a bit of duck fat or olive oil
- 2 shallots, peeled and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 pound duck livers
- 1 small wineglass Armagnac
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- Place half of the butter in a small heavy bottomed sauce pan. Heat it over medium heat until it melts and froths. Skim the froth off of the top and discard it. Set the clarified butter aside for later.
- Heat the duck fat or olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and gently fry them until they are soft and tender. Do not brown them. When they are soft, transfer to a food processor or blender.
- Wipe any stray bits out of the pan with a kitchen towel and fry the livers for a couple of minutes on each side. They should be lightly colored on the outside, but still a bit pink in the middle. If they are overcooked the pâté will have a grainy texture.
- Add the brandy (Be careful. Sometimes the brandy will flame, which is fine as long as you don’t singe your eyebrows). Simmer the livers in the brandy for about a minute.
- Add the livers and the reduced liquor to the food processor or blender and process into a smooth puree. Add the rest of the softened butter and process until totally combined.
- Season the pâté with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and divide it between three half pint mason jars.
- Pour the clarified butter on top, seal and refrigerate.
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