Chicken Liver Pâté For Those Who Don’t Like Liver

Chickens are tough. Try eating a chicken’s foot, and you’ll really know what hardy means. One of the strongest bits of a chicken (in my entirely unscientific survey) is the liver, which is packed full of iron, i.e. what they make steel out of. Chickens are tough.

Rhode Island Red rooster

You give me any lip and I’ll bury you under the floor.

In a modern version of the ancient practice of eating someone or something to take on his, her, their or its qualities, I sometimes eat chicken livers, in an attempt to take on their iron levels. Liver tasting as it does, I eat it in the form of chicken liver pâté. And since the pâté in the shops is generally mostly made up of Things Which Are Not Chicken Livers, I have at last given in and started making my own. Bonus: it’s a lot cheaper than the commercial version and you can customize it to your taste. (Unless of course you are a vegetarian or vegan.)

You will need some chicken livers, about 400-500g (a pound-ish, imperialists); half an onion, chopped up small; two fat cloves of garlic, ditto; about 150g butter (say 5oz); 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 or more teaspoons of peppercorns (depending on how much you don’t like the taste of liver); plenty of herbs (I used rosemary and a bay leaf, but sage and thyme are also suitable); and 2 tablespoons brandy – optional, but it does help disguise the liver taste. Port would also be good.

You will also need a frying pan and (alas!) a blender. It always used to peeve me when people offered “super-simple” recipes that required equipment I didn’t have, so my apologies if this won’t work for you. A hand-mincer and much stirring may yet do the job.

Melt 1/3 of the butter in the frying pan, and fry the onion and garlic until the onion looks fairly cooked. The bay leaf can go in here too, if you’re using one. While the onion fried, I used the blender to turn a teaspoon of peppercorns into pepper-dust (like watching a snow-globe full of midges), debated whether to add more pepper, and decided not to. I am still not sure this was the right decision, but after all, one can always add more pepper when one eats it.

Fabergé salt and pepper grinder

Fabergé pepper grinder: for your inner Cruella de Vil

Once the onion is cooked, you scoop it out of the pan (a slotted spoon is useful here) and put it aside, adding the livers to the pan in its place. Cook for about five minutes, until they look nice and brown. You can cut into a lobe to see if it’s cooked through: a bit pink in the middle is ok, but you don’t want it bleeding. (Helpful rule of life: if it’s bleeding, don’t eat it.)

When you are satisfied with the cookedness of the livers, plop them into the blender. Add the onion, being careful to remove the bay leaf first. Blend until no longer lumpy and then add the rest of the butter (goes in easier if it’s softened) and any herbs and spices you haven’t already added, along with the salt and the brandy (or port). Blend till smooth and creamy and then spoon into whatever container takes your fancy – bowls are nice for general presentation; jars are more practical if you’re not likely to eat it all at once.Mousse de canard au porto
Now, the traditional thing to do is to pour melted clarified butter over the top, and this is certainly of use if you are putting it away in ye olde cold stone pantry for some time. Personally, I don’t find a layer of yellowed fat on the top of my food to be very appetizing, so I leave that stage out. Chacun à son goût.

This is good in a sandwich with sliced tomatoes (with, of course, plenty of pepper) or spread on hot, hot toast – preferably Vogels. Crackers are another excellent form of pâté consumption,  though I generally like something more on top. Again, tomato is good, as are cucumber and sometimes a little tasty cheese.

Chicken Liver Pâté
Having written this, I feel I would like to plead for a more rational spelling of pâté, which just says “French was here.” Maybe not pate (that one is already taken, and eating the tops of people’s heads is frowned on, provident Fejee or not), but something. Partay? Putty? I remember from my brief career as a French student that the circumflex – on the â – often means there used to be an s in there, which English has usually kept. Pâté = paste. Would pâté de foie gras be as popular if it was advertised as “fat liver paste”? I think not.

Second Sock Syndrome: A Song

I confess: I generally enjoy knitting the second sock more than the first. All those anxious decisions are out of the way: toe-up or cuff-down? smaller needles? what kind of heel? is the foot long enough? or too long? and so on and so forth. The many variables are accounted for, and all you need to do is sit back and do what you did last time (only without the experimentation and back-tracking).

Little Girl Knitting - Albert Anker
That said, I have great sympathy for those who suffer from the dreaded SSS (Second Sock Syndrome) and in honour of their sufferings (and in the hope that said sufferings might be mitigated by a cheery work song) I have penned the following song.

Or rather, the words to the song. For the music I am indebted to Mr. Donald Swann, as it comes from Flanders and Swann‘s king among ungulates, The Gnu, which can be heard here if you are one of those tragic unfortunates who has never heard it before.

However: back to the socks.
Untitled (1869) - Aldolphe William Bougvereav

The S-Song of the S-Second S-Sock

It was perhaps a year ago, I thought I’d make a pair
of socks to clothe the coldness of my legs,
and I started in with gusto and I didn’t have a care
until reality took me down a peg.
The first sock glided by with ease, a woolly piece of cake
and glorious plans for many more ensued;
But once I had cast on again, I felt like such a fake
for the second sock began with me a feud.

Heinrich Maria von Hess - Portrait of Fanny Gail - WGA11384
I’m k-nitting a sock, a s-second s-sock,
It really oughtn’t to come as such a shock (pom-pom);
I’m k-nitting a sock, a s-second s-sock,
I sit here k-nitting away and watching the clock;
I’m k-nitting a sock, tick-tock, tick-tock;
The blasted thing must be the size of a frock!
If I hadn’t had two feet, a single sock would be a treat,
But here I sit k-nitting away at my sock!

Franz Skarbina Strickende
Tolstoy’s Anna Makarovna used to knit the two at once
but I’m bound to make the socks S-Siamese;
And some knit side by side on circs which seems like an advance,
but in the face of which my courage flees.
Some bold and reckless knitters knit the two in different ways
Upside down or inside out or back to front
And the bravest wear unmatching socks out in the public gaze
(and that at least would solve the morning hunt).

Langée Bergère au tricot
I’m k-nitting a sock, a s-second s-sock,
to suggest I have a choice is making mock;
I’m k-nitting a sock, of wool from the flock
I seem to have amassed a largish stock;
I’m k-nitting a sock, I hope they’ll rock
After all this time please let them not be schlock;
I have a dream they’ll meet, side by side upon my feet
And so I sit k-nitting the second s-sock!
K-nit, k-nit, k-nitting the second s-sock!
K-nit, k-nit, k-nitting the second s-sock!

Jean-Baptiste Greuze Tricoteuse endormie