Eating lunch in the high-ceilinged dining room at Ballymaloe, I remember being served a little pot of chicken liver paté with melba toasts. Maybe it was the fire crackling in the hearth near our table. Or the ponies grazing in the meadows beyond the huge, double-hung windows. But that was the best paté I’d ever had.
I recently found the recipe for it in Darina Allen’s wonderful book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Packed with stories and time-tested tips, she writes about curing meats, smoking fish, drying fruit, making pickles and many other culinary feats. The photos are beautiful. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. Allen has passionate opinions about food but isn’t sanctimonious. She’s a pleasure to read.
Every time I buy a whole chicken, I pop the liver in the freezer in a zipped bag filled with livers from past birds. When I have enough, I defrost the livers and make this paté. The paté goes into little ramekins which, covered in plastic wrap, go back in the freezer for a future ready-made, luxury hors d’oeuvre. When I dip my rounded butter knife into the ramekin, I am transported back to County Cork.
Ballymaloe Chicken Liver Paté
Adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen
8 oz fresh organic chicken livers
2 tablespoons brandy
8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, plus a little for cooking livers
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Clarified butter* to seal the top
Wash the livers and remove any membrane or green-tinged bits. Melt a little butter in a frying pan. When it foams, add the livers and cook over a low heat. All trace of pink should be gone, but be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty. Put the livers into a food processor.
Deglaze the pan with brandy and allow it to flame. Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves, stirring for two minutes then scraping everything into the food processor with the livers. Purée for a few seconds. Let cool.
Add 6 tablespoons of the butter pieces and purée again until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, taste, and add more butter if necessary. The paté should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture.
Put into six 4-ounce ramekins, or one medium sized terrine and knock out an air bubbles by firmly banging the ramekins on the counter a few times. Then pour clarified butter over the top to seal.
Serve with melba toast or toasted white bread. This paté will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator or it can be frozen for a month or so. Eat immediately after it is defrosted.
* To make clarified butter, melt butter gently in a saucepan or in a Pyrex cup in a very low oven, at 300˚F. Let stand for a few minutes, then spoon the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top. Underneath is a clear liquid butter, the clarified butter. Spoon this liquid into a jar, and throw out the milky liquid at the bottom. Keep Clarified butter in the fridge for cooking foods at a high heat. Butter starts to burn at 350˚F. Clarified butter can be heated up to 485˚F.