Faux or no, this gras spread is to die for. Hopefully not literally - everything in moderation, right? I have been saving up the livers from my Womach Ranch (local pastured) chickens over the past few weeks (plus a few extras thrown in upon request) specifically for the purpose of making chicken liver mousse or pate. I've had divine versions of this delicacy at both the Farmhouse Cafe and Third Corner, and I knew it was indulgent, but until I started looking at recipes, I have to admit, I was blissfully ignorant of exactly how much so. Six egg yolks? 2 cups of cream?? A pound of butter???
After puzzling over three wildly varying recipes,* I posted a query on Twitter - asking if anyone had a good one, and Sam reminded me of Michel Richard's recipe in the Happy in the Kitchen book. The recipe is actually the simplest one I looked at, both in terms of the method and ingredients. It's a cinch to make, incredibly inexpensive, and best of all, amazingly delicious.
Michel refers to this as "Faux Gras" because it tastes very much like foie gras torchon. All of the ingredients can be purchased for under $5.00. Add some cornichons or pickled red onions (or pickled cherries if you want to go all French Laundry on your guests) and a Bread and Cie baguette and you're all set. With some champagne and salad greens, you've got yourself a feast!
"Faux Gras" Chicken Liver Pate adapted from Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen
(mostly what I've done here is cut the recipe in half, his calls for 1 pound of livers, and this makes one nice-sized ramekin. If you're having a party, you might want to double it, and make two ramekins.)
Womach's fresh, organic pastured chickens are available at the Sunday Hillcrest Farmers Market. If you ask nicely, he'll give you extra giblets (ask for feet and necks for stock) and I think he'll also sell the livers separately - I saw him sell about half a pound to an elderly gentleman for two or three dollars a few weeks ago.
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 stick butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup whipping cream
maldon sea salt
finely ground pepper
5-6 ounces chicken livers, any veins, fatty lumps or dark spots removed
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a small heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion to the melted butter and cook until soft, stirring often. Using a microplane grater, grate half of the garlic clove into the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the whipping cream. Cook until the onion is very soft, about 5 minutes.
Boil two cups of water, either on the stove or in the microwave. Place the chicken livers in the bowl of a small food processor or 2-3 cup mini-chopper Add the onion mixture and puree until smooth. Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl, and strain the liver mixture into the bowl. Place a four inch ramekin in a cake pan or other high sided pan, and pour the mixture into the ramekin, stirring the surface lightly to get rid of any air bubbles. Place the pans in the oven on the middle rack, and pour the boiling water into the outer pan until it comes halfway up the side of the ramekin (supplement with hot water from the tap if it's not enough.) Cover the ramekin with foil, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the middle is set but still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
If you like, you can seal the top with some melted butter with a few sage leaves or thyme springs in it, or a gelatin mixture infused with herbs. Michel uses a cucumber gelee with parsley. If you don't seal it (and I didn't) just press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pate to preserve it. Well wrapped, it will keep for at least three or four days in the refrigerator.
* the other recipes I looked at were from Food and Wine, Gourmet and Paula Wolfert's recipe from the Piret's Cookbook.