My kitchen is my sanctuary, or so I’ve written about it before. It’s a warm and comforting cave where I can slowly spend hours cooking my fears and insecurities away. Ultimately, this ritual also comforts my aching stomach and does wonders for my broken heart. The smile on the faces of my family and friends as they enjoy every spoonful of the dishes I’ve whipped up is at once joyous and gratifying at the same time.
Last week, I was invited to a potluck dinner organized by the @heavenlycake duo, of which the criteria was to bring something made from Chef Michael Elfwing‘s cookbook. Since this was an opportunity to cook something I’ve not done before, I chose to make his Chicken Liver Pâté and Red Onion Jam together with my fabulous partner is crime, @agentcikay.
To be honest, I was completely shitting in my pants from the moment I committed to the recipe. The recipe may look easy enough, but I couldn’t really see how I was going to pull this off.
My fears stemmed from:
1. An inadequate experience or knowledge in fine cooking (I’m more of a Jamie than Ferran);
2. I’ve no idea if my tiny kitchen was equipped enough;
3. I’m intimidated by the guest list – which reads the who’s who in foodie-land. Plus, the Chef himself was gonna be there, as the guest of honor no less.
Irrelevant fears or not, a great sense of self-doubt started to kick-in. But, we held our chin up high and marched on with smiles on our faces. Well, at least Ciki could since she marched off to get her fingernails manicured with encouraging words like, “Why don’t you just buy some instead?” Well, I would to if I couldn’t cook like her. Having said that, it was the perfect partnership. She paid, I learned something new and we were happily stuffed.
To be completely honest, I found the recipe rather easy to make. It was a complete surprise how well it turned out and how there wasn’t a need for any complicated techniques, exotic ingredients or high-tech equipments involved. With enough planning and understanding, any home cook could have easily made this. I found separating the process into two parts made the whole process less stressful. The jam was made a week in advance, while the pâté was made a day before the dinner. Easy peasy, liver-licious.
If you decide to challenge yourself in the kitchen, here’s the recipe and some of my own side notes to help you out.
Chicken Liver Pâté
(serves 10 | cooking time approximately 2.5hrs)
600g chicken liver
50ml cognac - thanks to my alcoholic Ah Pa for supplying!
150ml port wine
6 shallots, finely chopped - I used Indian shallots; cheap and pungent
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
600g butter - I prefer using salted butter
6 whole eggs - medium sized
A pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
1. Clean the liver and remove the white sinew holding the livers together. Soak the liver in milk and cognac for 1 hour. Remove the liver and pat dry on kitchen paper. Combine port wine, shallots and thyme in a pot and reduce over medium heat until all port has been evaporated an been soaked up by the shallots and remove from heat. This is the most aromatic part of the process. So, enjoy it. Heat butter over low heat and add liver and shallots, cook gently until the liver is medium-cooked. Liver should look opaque on the outside and but still soft on the inside.
2. Now, take a deep breath and brace yourself for the gross part. Pour the liver and butter mixture into a blender and blend until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs one by one, once incorporated into the mixture, strain the mixture and pour into a terrine mould and bake at 140°C for 50mins. I used a large Pyrex baking dish instead of a terrine.
3. Once cooked, let the pâté sit in the warm oven until it completely sets before taking it out to cool. This is to avoid a giant crater as the pâté rises during the baking process caused by trapped air from the blending earlier. Once cooled, let the pâté sit in the mould overnight and unmould the following day or eat it straight out from the mould with some crusty bread. Best served with red onion jam for extra bite.
Red Onion Jam
(makes 1kg jam | cooking time 1-hour)
1kg red onion – I used large Australian red onions
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
3 bay leave I find dry ones more aromatic
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon whole all spice powder
1 10-cm cinnamon stick – or use two 5-cms instead as it is readily available here
150ml red wine vinegar
150ml full-bodied red wine - I used some leftover Australian Shiraz
100g sugar – I used brown
2-3 tablespoon of honey - found some organic Australian red gum tree honey in my kitchen cabinet
1. Heat olive oil in a deep sauce pot and saute the onion and spices until soft but without colouring. My heat was set on low. This should take about 7-10 minutes.
2. Add the vinegar and wine and reduce until about a third remains, then add the sugar and water. Simmer the mixture until it thicken and become glossy. Pour in the honey and simmer for another 2-minutes. Don’t worry if this doesn’t look anything like a jam or puree. I actually panicked because it resembles a pickled onion dish. But according to Chef Michael, it was perfect! Joy.
3. Cool and keep in sterilized glass jars or freeze for up to 3 months. This red onion jam goes well with red meat and is a great condiment on any antipasto platter. I stored and refrigerated mine in an airtight tiffin carrier.