chicken liver pâté and 2011 favorites

There were so many things I meant to do before the end of 2011. Like seriously clean my house. And buy a day planner. And share my list of favorites from the year.

Instead, there were birthdays to celebrate, frantic shoe shopping, cocktails, and lots and lots of friends – old friends, new friends, some staying a while and some just passing through. It was pretty glorious, those last few days of 2011. And before I knew it, I was wearing sequins and we were ringing in the new year.

It seems wrong to share something so decadent after such a celebratory week, especially since I had intended on posting this before the year’s end. But sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Allow me to present to you this chicken liver pâté, or what I like to refer to as meat butter. I have a weakness for pâté. I am known to order it as my main course at restaurants – and not share. I especially enjoyed this pâté, rich and smooth with hints of thyme and a whisper of Calvados.

This was my first time making pâté and it was surprisingly simple to throw together. A pound of sauteed chicken livers pureed with a pound of butter and topped with a little Riesling gelée. It really is the perfect start to any meal (and even better with a glass of wine). I had a little smear of pâté on toast for breakfast almost everyday for a week. Insanely indulgent. Don’t judge.

Speaking of indulging, I just can’t resist. Here are a few of my favorites from 2011:

Bill Cunningham New York – I think this was one of the best things to happen to me. Ever. I could watch this documentary over and over again. Bill Cunningham, well into his eighties, riding his bicycle all over Manhattan, all for the love of fashion. And he still shoots film with an old 35mm Nikon. What a wonderful spirit Mr. Cunningham is. I just want to hug him.

Feist Metals – This took a minute to grow on me, but after I saw her perform live, it stuck. It is such a departure from The Reminder; a bit darker, heartbreakingly  honest at times. One of my favorite voices.

Patti Smith Just Kids – I gave this to my oldest friend for his thirtieth birthday, and immediately got my own copy. New York. 1970’s. Love. Music. Friendship. Magic.

A Night with Broken Social Scene, San Francisco, CA – I bought tickets to this show not knowing that the band had announced an indefinite hiatus and that it was to be their last show ever in North America. No opening band. Two and a half hours of non-stop BSS. It was the best show I’ve ever been to. I had to go home and cry afterwards.

The Boulevardier – Bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth. If you had asked me ten years ago I would have said no way. It’s like the bitter, orange-scented cousin of the Manhattan. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this really was the drink of choice in 2011. Plus, I’m really enjoying the videos that these guys have been making.

M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – This has been playing on a loop for a couple of weeks now and I can’t get enough of it. Really good synth-heavy, shoe-gazey, and acoustic tracks. “Midnight City” alone is so grand. I’ll always remember blasting it in my car on my way to Sausalito on New Years Eve.

Goodbye, 2011! Benvenuto, 2012!

chicken liver pâté with riesling-thyme gelée

from Bon Appetit

makes 3 cups

1 pound chicken livers, cleaned

4 cups milk, divided

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 cup sweet (Auslese) Riesling

sliced baguette

unsalted butter, melted

Mellow the flavor of the chicken livers by placing them in a glass bowl with 2 cups milk. Cover; chill for 2 hours. Drain; discard milk. Return livers to same bowl, add the remaining 2 cups milk, cover, and chill for 2 more hours (or overnight). Drain; discard milk and rinse livers. Pat dry with paper towels.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add livers, increase heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until livers are firm but still pink inside, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in Calvados. Return to heat; cook until Calvados is reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Discard thyme.

Transfer liver mixture to a food processor; add 2 teaspoons salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With processor running, add remaining butter by tablespoonfuls until all butter is incorporated. Transfer mousse to prepared strainer. Using a rubber spatula, press mousse through strainer. Rinse and dry strainer, then strain mousse again, discarding solids in strainer. Divide among small jars or bowls. Chill until firm, 1–2 hours.

Place 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Microwave gelatin mixture until gelatin dissolves and mixture becomes clear, about 30 seconds. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Stir in wine. Spoon gelée over mousse in jars, forming a 1/4″ layer (not all gelée may be used). Top each jar with thyme sprigs or leaves, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelée is set, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Let mousse soften slightly at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with toasts.