Pate is a strange creature.

First, it’s about as appropriately named as a chai tea latte.*

Pate comes from the French word for paste or pastry – it originally meant “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry.” Now, if you’re going to indicate “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry,” you have to say pate en croute – “meat jelly stuff wrapped in pastry, wrapped in pastry.”

You could call it a terrine (named after the earthware dish it was made in), which is “meat jelly stuff smooshed in an earthenware mold to make it hold its shape.”  However, a terrine means pretty much anything that you mold like that, and is just as applicable to a ham-in-aspic concoction as what I’m talking about here.

Properly, what I’m talking about should be called either “chicken liver mousse” or “chopped liver,” but neither of these really connote deliciousness, so I’m going to call it pate anyway.  Language moves on.

I love pate.

It’s probably bad for me, but I love it.  I loved liverwurst when I was a kid, and that’s what this is, refined liverwurst.  It certainly isn’t going to turn me into a vegetarian anytime soon.

I made my first batch yesterday, based on (wait for it…) a Mark Bittman video.**

So far, what I’ve learned is that I don’t care for liver and onions.  The first stage of this dish is “make a pan of liver and onions.”  The liver tastes bitter on the outside. even if you don’t cook it much.

Second, upon puree, it tasted funny.  Bitter.  I was so disappointed, but then again, I was happy – because that meant I could mess around.  When something tastes bad, it’s a justification for messing around with it until it tastes good or until it tastes so bad that you have to throw it away.  I like messing around, so it wasn’t a total loss.

I added more cream and some salt, and it tasted pretty good, which made me both happy (yum!) and disappointed (awwww…no more messing around).   Then I remembered I was supposed to add more butter (yay!  more messing!), which made it taste even better (awww…all done).

The pate was very runny, so I dumped it in a bowl in the fridge, as directed.

The taste test (this morning):

The pate set up nicely.  It’s softer than commercial pate, but stiff enough to be a spread.

The flavor is more like liverwurst than like commercial pate, a very unsophisticated (but delicious) flavor.  I really want to mess around with adding some sherry or sherry vinegar to this next time.

Pate (currently)

1 lb chicken livers
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 c butter
2 cloves
20 peppercorns
5 coriander seeds
2 allspice berries
1/3 c cream

Melt about half of the butter in a saute pan. When melted, add the onions and saute until they’re translucent. Add the liver and saute ONLY to medium-rare, pulling out pieces as they finish. (Next time, I’m going to deglaze the pan with sherry after pulling out the livers. We’ll see.)

Grind the spices with a little bit of salt.

In a food processor, add the liver, onions, cream, the spices, and the rest of the butter. If it tastes bitter, add a little more salt and cream.

Pour into a container and chill in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

*I.e., “Tea tea coffee with milk.”
**I am afraid that with the release of his new cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook, he will stop showing people how to make these fundamental recipes that are meat-based.