Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chicken Liver Pate and Sunchoke Pickles

Chicken liver pate is a dish I remember fondly from my childhood as a fancy indulgence, rich and boozy, prepared for special occasions. Then at some point the combined threats of concentrated environmental toxins and artery-clogging cholesterol seemed to banish this dish from our family table and restaurant menus. Fair Valley Farm's conscientious animal husbandry alleviates the first concern, and  the cholesterol hysteria has wained a bit. So I decided to try my hand at this dish with a pound of Fair Valley Farm's chicken livers. However, the three sticks of butter that Jacque Pepin's classic French recipe would require did give me pause. After a little searching around, I came across this Tuscan chicken liver pate from food52 contributor gluttonforlife, flavored with capers, anchovies, lemon zest and Parmesan. The resulting spread was as rich and creamy as I remembered, and a splash of sherry rounded out the flavor. 

The final touch, a stroke of genius I would say, was to layer on some sunchoke pickles. These had been made in a frenzy with Open Oak Farm tubers that needed my attention before I left on a short trip. Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) resemble potatoes in appearance, but have a distinctive sweet, almost citrus flavor, and bright crunch due to their high inulin content instead of potatoes' starch. A less accessible complex sugar (appropriate for diabetics), inulin is considered a "prebiotic" that promotes healthy gut bacteria. This is all well and good, but a pile of gnarly sunchokes can be intimidating.

Confronted with these unfamiliar vegetables, I turned, as I often do in such situations, to The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. Her last entry for Jerusalem artichokes was a pickle recipe, which called for a day of soaking in salty water, before being plunged in a vinegary bath. While picked fennel was a revelation last summer, these sunchokes are my new favorite. Their distinctive flavor shines through the vinegar and they made the perfect complement to the creamy pate slathered on Eugene City Bakery polenta baguette. There may even be a scientific basis for this complementarity, as inulin has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties: guilt-free pate sandwiches.

Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate
1 pound (preferably) organic chicken livers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, smashed
3 anchovy fillets (or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste), chopped
1 tablespoon capers, minced
4 to 6 sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, anchovies, capers and sage until the shallots are lightly browned, 6 minutes or so.

2. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Cook over high heat until browned, then add 1/3 cup of the wine and keep stirring with a wooden spoon, breaking up the livers as they start to cook through. When the wine is absorbed, add the remaining 1/3 cup and repeat the process.

3. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a food processor. Process until quite smooth, then add the lemon zest and Parmesan and process again. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature, spread on good bread.

Note 1: for a looser, more mousse-like spread, don't let all the liquid evaporate from the pan. You can always adjust the consistency as you buzz it in the food processor by drizzling in olive oil, water or even wine as you mix in the food processor. I added a splash of sherry during the processing for a nice alcohol note.

Note 2: a pound a chicken liver pate may seem like a lot of a good thing. You can proceed with making this recipe prior to the point of adding the Parmesan cheese, then freeze half of it to finish later.

Sunchoke Pickles 

About 20 sunchokes
juice of one lemon
kosher salt for brining
1/2  cup water

3 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp mustard seed
1/2  tsp turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1. Scrub the sunchokes very well with a vegetable brush and remove any stringy bits. Prepare a bowl of salty cold water with lemon juice for brining the sunchokes, with 1 Tbsp kosher salt for each cup of water (you will need about 4 cups).

2. Slice the sunchokes into thin slices (about 1/8 inch thick) and submerge the slices into the brine. Cover and let soak for about 24 hours. 

3. The next day, prepare the pickling vinegar by combining in a small sauce pan the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and spcies. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves, about five minutes. 

4. Let the vinegar cool for a moment while you rinse the sunchoke slices and pack them into clean glass jars. 2 pint jars or one quart jar should work. Now pour the vinegar solution over the sunchoke slices and press them down to submerge them. Seal the jars loosely, let them cool and then refrigerate. The pickles will be good to eat in a day and will keep for a few weeks.

1 comment:

Anna said...

I love the idea of anchovies and capers in a chicken liver pate. Sounds delicious.