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Pâté at home. An old recipe becomes possible again.

June 25, 2012

I’d like to give a warning to the squeamish, the vegetarians and particularly the squeamish vegetarians. This recipe is about pork liver and fat and the glorious gallimaufry that is created when put through a grinder a few times with onions, seasoned just so, blended with a cute blonde named roux and baked in a hot water bath. Sounds like a spa treatment… But with bacon.

First, a brief history. I was kind of a finicky eater as a child. Though, to be honest, even kids that are not-so-finicky have trouble with liver and onions. No doubt the very thought gave rise to a fair number of adult vegetarians. However, being the son a Danish immigrant mother, I would be fed things that only had names in Danish. And, being introduced to these foodstuffs at an early age meant that I had trouble pronouncing them. So, leverpostej (liver pate or paste in english) turned into “moo-steh-stigh” off the tongue of a toddler (no liver in THAT). That pronunciation stuck until about my second trip to Denmark where the relatives taught me the correct pronunciation long after it became my favorite Danish dish and I didn’t care what it was made of. I just only ever wanted more.

For the uninitiated, Danes love food and to make things pretty (as well as functional). When the two collide you have artwork that is delicious. Hence, the open-faced sandwich. The polar opposite of, say, a pannini, the Danish sandwich is a beautiful, delicate arrangement of flavors and textures atop, more often than not, a square piece of buttered pumpernickel bread — a dark, sour, dense rye, and eaten with a knife and fork. (Danes even butter their bread on a separate plate!) Generously spread leverpostej topped usually with pickled beets is the most popular cold-cut sandwich in Denmark.

Given the process it takes to make from scratch as well as its scarcity in the U.S., I usually waited for the two or three times a year it was purchased at the specialty Scandinavian shop. These were usually fine. But they weren’t the ones I remembered as a boy. The handmade (yes, handmade as grinders were manual back then) versions were far superior. But our society made buying quality liver and fat much more difficult with the preference for industrial hog farms and supermarkets unable (or unwilling or both) to accommodate custom purchasing. And, let’s face it, the quality of our food in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s suffered as a result.

Fast forward to the 2010s and we are seeing the fruits of a food revolution that began a decade ago. Food is important again. And, most importantly, the quality of our food is. More and more consumers now care about where their food comes from and are taking matters into the own hands and are dealing directly with the producers. We have a long way to go, but important strides are being made. The growth of farmers markets, the rise of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and the small-scale organic or otherwise sustainable farms that supply them are feeding not only our bodies but our minds and souls.

The following recipe is illustrative of that. Pork liver and fat from sustainably and responsibly raised pigs from Sunshine Harvest Farm and onions from what could have been any number of small farmers you can find at the Kingfield or Fulton farmers markets in Minneapolis. There are over 7000 farmers markets in the U.S. now. Go find one near you. It matters.

Recipe after jump.

Leverpostej — Danish-style pork liver pate

This recipe is from the oft-cited in this blog, Grete Loschenkohl. Although it is the version I remember growing up with, she gets the credit, for not just giving over the decades-old, hand-written recipe, but showing the nuances even worn and aged paper can’t quite convey. Tusind tak, Grete.

This makes enough for five (1lb) aluminum mini loaf pans.

  • 2 small to medium onions
  • 1 1/2lb pork liver
  • 3/4lb pork fat
  • 4TBSP butter
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 2/3 C milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper

Make the roux from the butter and flour. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly, till you reach a thick sauce consistency. Allow to cool, but stir occasionally so as not to form a skin.

Finely grind liver, fat and onions. If using a meat grinder slice liver, fat and onions into strips for better feeding into the grinder and use fine grind attachment and grind a total of four times. Some also find freezing the grinding screw and plate to be helpful. I do this with beef but find it isn’t necessary for the pork liver. Another trick is to have the liver and fat nearly, but not completely frozen. You’ll get a very good consistency.

Mix the roux and the ground mixture together. Add eggs and season with salt and pepper. And here’s the cooking conundrum. To properly season you have to taste… I’m not saying anything more… Mix. Well.

Fill your loaf pans about 2/3rds full (the pate will expand whilst cooking).

If you wish to, the filled loaf pans can be frozen at this point for later baking. Just remember to thaw thoroughly before proceeding.

Bake in a hot water bath (about one inch of water or roughly half way up the pan) at 375F for 1/2 hour and then reduce temperature to 350F for another 45 mins.

For the bacon part. For an extra rich version, cover the top of the pate with strips of bacon before baking. Use a very good smoked bacon for best results.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 9:24 am

    a spa treatment with bacon !!!!!! Ah hahahahaha !!!!!

    Really?

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