Brandy Chicken Liver Pâté

I still have clear memories of lunch last month at a French bistro in San Francisco.  It was a very beautiful day in January and we were sitting outside at Zazie in Cole Valley.  I wasn’t feeling like breakfast food which is what they are known for, so I ordered the pâté sandwich which was described as sinful brandy chicken liver pâté and greens on grilled levain.  The only sandwiches I have eaten with pâté are the Vietnamese sandwiches, but the description sounded so wonderful I had to try it.  I was so glad I did as this was so delightful and decadent.  The experience made me quickly look for a recipe for a chicken liver pâté.  I had found one and decided to make it for an appetizer for tonight’s Oscar party. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • *optional butter to make a seal

Courtesy of Epicurious.com, the recipe begins with melting a bar of unsalted butter in a skillet over low heat.  Mmmm…Butter!  Once melted, you throw in chopped onion and garlic and sauté for five minutes.  Then you add the chicken livers, marjoram, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, and allspice and cook for about eight minutes.  The recipe calls to add bourbon, but I substituted with brandy since the original sandwich I ate was with brandy.  Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into a food processor.  Puree the mixture until smooth.  Transfer into ramekins or a terrine.

I followed the recipe and made the clarified butter seal.  I believe the reason you add this seal is to help keep the pâté lasting longer.  To make this, you melt some butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, remove from heat.  In a few minutes, take a spoon and remove the froth.  Pour the clarified butter onto the top of the pâté.  Refrigerate.  The butter seal will harden in about 30 minutes.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.  Serve with a baguette or crackers. 

This recipe is easy and delicious and was a winner at tonight’s viewing party.  I think I’ll be making a sandwich with my leftovers!

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Take Out Champ: Laotian Food

When you think about take out, what kind of food comes to mind?  Chinese, pizza, fast food?  Well, one particular place a couple miles away from me is Champa Garden, a Laotian restaurant.    Although I’ve eaten at the restaurant located in the Ivy Hill hood, on the corner of 8th Avenue and E. 22nd Street, there are a couple reasons why take out is the preferred option.  One reason is that it is an awkward location.  The restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood (there is even housing above the restaurant) and not the best neighborhood in Oakland.  Let’s just say I would not be comfortable walking around the area alone day or night.  The bigger reason for take out is that this restaurant is fairly small and gets crowded with long waits.  I once unexpectedly waited an hour to get seated.   Whether you dine in or take out, there is no doubt that you will enjoy the food from Champa Garden.

I always order the fried rice ball salad as an appetizer because it’s my favorite thing on the entire menu.  It can feed a few people as an appetizer, but I definitely can enjoy this alone as a one person meal.  This really is a lettuce wrap that is filled with a mixture of fried rice, preserved pork, green onions, chili peppers, and lime juice topped with fresh cilantro and mint.

Tonight I tried the pad thai with shrimp for the first time.  Although my BFF didn’t think it was that good, I thought it was pretty good and ate most of it.  Her complaint was largely due to the fact that they didn’t include peanuts and didn’t have enough eggs.  I thought the flavor of the noodles were good, had fresh bean sprouts, and large plump shrimp – some key ingredients to a good pad thai.  After taking another look at the menu, I think they forgot the peanuts and gave us some tofu as a bonus.

I typically order green curry, but the last time I dined at Champa Garden with some friends, one friend ordered the panang curry.  After having a taste of hers, I knew I would order it the next time.  The panang curry is an orange curry that is made with red and green bell peppers, carrots, keffir leaves, and white meat chicken.  It’s creamy, nutty in flavor, and has a nice kick.  I still enjoy the green curry, but think there is good enough reason to mix it up.

If you haven’t had Laotian food, you are definitely missing out.  Oakland has a growing population of Laos people and I’m glad their food is represented.

Warm brussels sprout salad

Brussels sprouts have a bad rep, but I love them.  I didn’t grow up eating them, but I did grow up eating stir fried cabbage with bacon.  So when I first had the warm brussels sprouts salad from Pizza Antica in Lafayette, I was in love.  After my first time having it, I tried to replicate this dish.  I have been playing around with this dish for years, but now feel that I own it.  A few weeks ago, I tried this dish at Pizza Antica again and was disappointed.   Here is my easy version of Pizza Antica’s warm brussels sprout salad:

Ingredients:
1/2 lb of brussels sprouts
4 slices of bacon
1/4 of a red onion
2 large eggs
1 tbsp of balsamic vinaigrette

Prep:
The hardest part of this recipe is time spent removing the leaves.  It’s a bit time consuming, but it gets faster and easier with practice.  I use a small knife and cut the leaves off.

I drench the leaves in a tub of cold water.  After a few minutes I put the leaves through a salad spinner to dry them off.  I put these aside.

I slice the red onion and put these aside.

Cooking:
Boil eggs in a small covered pot on medium heat.  As soon as the water boils, while still covered turn heat down to low.  Cook for exactly seven minutes.  After seven minutes, pour out water and soak in cold water.  When cold water warms, exchange to cold water again.  The egg shells should come off easily.

Cook 4 slices of bacon on medium heat in a large skillet until golden brown on both sides.

Remove bacon and place on paper towels.  Remove some of the bacon grease, but keep one tablespoon in the pan.  Heat up the pan and add the red onion stirring occasionally.

After a few minutes, add the brussels sprout leaves.  Stir the leaves trying to coat through.

Cover the pan.  Stir occasionally.  When the leaves are cooked down (about 5 min) pour 1 tbsp of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette (you can also make your own) and continue to stir.  This will create some sizzle and start to brown the leaves.

Remove from heat after about 30 seconds.  Plate the brussels sprout leaves and top with bacon and hard boiled egg.

Enjoy!  Pizza Antica adds croutons in their salad.  I like to eat the salad with Acme’s Pan d’Epi (wheat stalk shaped bread).  Yum!

For the vegetarians, skip the bacon and use olive oil to cook the onion and brussels sprout leaves.  You could also add a little vegetable broth during the 5 minutes that the brussels sprouts are cooking.

Chinese New Year: Traditional Meals

Chinese New Year (CNY) aka Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in Chinese culture.  On this one particular day of the year, you’ll find that Chinatown is a ghost town.  Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Day and New Years Day, but not on CNY.  The days leading to CNY is where you’ll notice how chaotic it is.  Oranges, tangerines, pomelos are sold in bulk at the markets.  Plants, decorative paper, and red envelopes are sold outside shops.  On the eve of CNY, the Chinese restaurants or delis are roasting duck and pork at full capacity.   I remember a year when I ran all over town to find roast pork and finally after going to about five different restaurants, found it in a neighborhood far from Chinatown.

On the eve of CNY, it is traditional for families to have dinner together.  This is a large feast and the more dishes that are served the better, especially protein.  It is all about abundance.  With a few cooked items purchased in Chinatown, my mother spent most of the day prepping for dinner. Whole chicken, roast duck, roast pork, fish, shrimp, mushroom stir-fried with lettuce, vermicelli noodles, assorted vegetables, and bean curd soup were the dishes my family had on Wednesday evening.  Gastronomy comes to mind.

On CNY, families return to the table and have “jai” or buddhist’s feast.  This is a (mostly) vegetarian dish with many exotic ingredients.  (Oysters and oyster sauce is sometimes in the dish). I watched as my mother cooked all eighteen ingredients into a single dish.  For our large family and for this many ingredients, she cooked in batches and used a wok to stir fry the dish.

She started out by stir frying the white carrot (bok law bok) in oil.

Next she threw in the dry bamboo (jook sloon).

She added snow peas and soya bean sprouts.

Next came the black fungus or wooden ear (mook gnee).

After removing this first batch.  Mom tossed in some oil and vermicelli noodles.

Earlier she had washed, soaked, and cooked up a batch of wet ingredients and tossed  half of it into the noodles.   Those ingredients consisted of black mushrooms, fat choy (means good luck), ginkgo nut (bok gaw), bean curd (foo juk), oysters (hoe see), daylily buds or golden needles (gum jum), dried red plum (hung joe), and bamboo fungus (juk sung).

At this point, she added half of the first batch of previously stir-fried veggies and then tossed the last ingredients which were chestnuts (see goo), fried tofu, and olives (lom gok).

To flavor the dish, she added oyster sauce.

She dished this out and finished off the second batch.  The jai was served on traditional chinese decorated platters.

Each person gets a bowl of rice and chopsticks and eating family style, we pick at the plates of jai.  To be honest, I can’t say I love jai.  But at the same time, my mother makes the best jai around.  I do however love the tradition and I hope this blog helps to keep them alive.