Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Treat for Mom Any Day
What’s cooking? Pâté Maison and Strawberry Pâte de Fruit

Pétanque. It’s French. Rhymes with kebonk. The Kitchen Goddess was recently invited for an evening of pétanque. I know, I hadn’t ever heard of it either. It’s a French lawn bowling game, much like the Italian bocce, in which the object is to toss or roll heavy balls at a smaller, target ball. All these games – in the larger category of boules – are played in open-air rectangular courts made of flattened earth, gravel, or crushed stone, surrounded by wooden or stone borders.

Our friends have built a pétanque court in their backyard, and they invited a small group for a “friendly” tournament. I put that word in quotes, because it turns out that guys can get charged up over a game of tiddly-winks. We all know women are much more reasonable.

In any case, it was a fun idea, made even more so by the hostess’s choice of a country French theme to the food. Guests brought cheeses, fruits, various dry sausages, and liver pâté; the hostess provided a bakery’s worth of baguettes, a gigantic salad, more cheese, and dessert. And of course, everyone brought wine. A great way to spend an evening with or without the pétanque.

The Kitchen Goddess was asked to bring a chicken liver pâté. As luck would have it, she has a great one in her repertoire, a tried and true recipe adapted from the original Silver Palate Cookbook (which, thankfully, is still available). Even if you don’t like chicken liver, or think you couldn’t possibly eat a dish made from chicken liver, you should consider this one. The KG tried it the first time because the book’s authors claim to have sold some two tons of it in their shop, and that sounded like endorsement enough.

Creamy, smooth, and slightly nutty tasting from the blend of spices, with so much butter that it’s almost more butter than chicken liver. And, of course, that makes it irresistible. There’s also a hint of sweetness from both the Calvados and the currants. I have friends who can’t believe how good it is, and it disappears completely every time I serve it at a party. The recipe makes two small pots of the stuff, and the good news is that you can freeze it for the next time the boss or your mother-in-law or anyone else you’d like to impress will be dropping by for cocktails.

But the Kitchen Goddess has never been known to leave well enough alone, so she wandered onto the interweb to see what other kinds of pâté might be available. There she discovered a darling dessert that is also a pâté, known as pâte de fruits. [Translation note: pâté – pronounced “pa-TAY” is a meat dish; pâte – pronounced “pot” – is a fruit paste. Or so I’m told.] The bigger challenge: purse your lips together, and try to pronounce f-r-wee – the sound you must make to say “fruits” in French. It’s spelled the same way as in English, but in French, you need to let your upper lip curl up in that truly Gallic fashion.

Pâte de fruits is an elegant and gorgeously simple type of confection – a French favorite for hundreds of years. Tiny cubes of pure fruit gelée dusted with sugar, they’re pretty and light and a great dessert bauble. Also très easy to make. Put out a plate of them with coffee or champagne, and watch them disappear.

So what does all this have to do with Mother’s Day, you might ask? What nicer way to celebrate than with a tray of goodies and a glass of wine? Happy Mother’s Day!!

Kitchen Goddess timing note: The pâté maison takes less than an hour, but needs to set for at least 4 hours. The pâte de fruit will take about 2 hours. It sets up very quickly, but you’ll want to wait a few hours until it’s completely cooled before cutting it into cubes and rolling it in sugar.

Pâté Maison

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook (1982), by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Makes about 3 cups pâté.

2 small celery ribs, including leaves, cut in 2-inch lengths
4 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound chicken livers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry, and trimmed of stringy membrane bits
pinch of cayenne pepper
½ pound unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup coarsely chopped onion (about 2 ounces or ½ small onion)
1 small garlic clove
¼ cup Calvados
½ cup dried currants
Optional garnishes: sage leaves, fresh raspberries

Put 6 cups of cold water into a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the celery ribs and peppercorns, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chicken livers to the pot and simmer gently for an additional 10 minutes.

Drain the livers and discard the celery ribs and the peppercorns.

Into the bowl of a food processor, place the livers and the rest of the ingredients, except for the currants. Process until very smooth, at least a minute.

Transfer the paste into a small mixing bowl, and stir in the currants. The KG then divides the mixture into two 1½-cup terrines, but you could also use a single 3-cup serving dish. Smooth the tops with a spatula, then cover the dishes with cellophane wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. (If you taste the pâté before it has had time to set, you won’t like it. It needs that time for the flavors to meld.)

When ready to serve, garnish (if you want) and allow the pâtés to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Serve with water crackers or fresh or toasted baguette slices.

Pâté de Fruits

Adapted from Elizabeth LaBau at

Makes 64 1-inch squares.

1 pound fresh strawberries (can use frozen if they have no sugar added), hulled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2½ tablespoons liquid pectin

Special equipment: candy thermometer, 8x8" baking pan (glass or metal)

Spray your baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. (Ms. LaBau recommends first lining the pan with foil or parchment, but I sprayed a glass pan with PAM – no lining – and had no problem removing the finished gelée.)

Process the strawberries in a blender or food processor until very smooth.

Pour the strawberry purée into a large saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and ½ cup of sugar. Stir well to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and attach your candy thermometer.

Kitchen Goddess note: The minutiae of these temperature instructions may seem anxiety-producing. Do not fret. The KG herself spent a few worried moments in adjusting the heat up and down, and the results were great. Just do the best you can. The KG found a similar recipe – for a pear-cranberry pâte de fruit at, where the process was much more loosey-goosey; but I give you the directions I tried to follow.

Stirring the mixture constantly with a spatula to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, bring it to a temperature of 140°. Add the remaining 1½ cups of sugar and the pectin, and stir to combine.

Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 200°. Be patient – this part could take 30 minutes or more. Once it reaches 200°, adjust the heat to maintain that temperature for 2-3 minutes.

Return the heat to medium/medium high until the temperature of the mix reaches 225°, and let it cook at 225° – still stirring! – for another 2-3 minutes.

Immediately pour the liquid all at once into your prepared pan, using your spatula to scrape it all in. This stuff sets up quickly once the heat is off and if you pour it in stages, you’ll find that the second stage simply sits on top of the first.

Set the pan on a cooling rack for several hours, until the mixture has cooled completely. (If you have the time, you can leave it out on the counter overnight.)

Using a sharp knife, cut the pâte de fruit into 64 1-inch squares, and roll them in your choice of sugar: superfine, regular granulated, or large-crystal sanding sugar.

Pâte de fruit keeps best at room temperature. If you choose to keep it in the refrigerator, you may need to re-roll it in sugar before serving.

* * *

Kitchen Goddess note about strawberries: The KG has posted about the most fun and amazing way to quickly hull strawberries, here. But if, when you hull your strawberries, you simply throw away the hulls, you are missing out on a great treat: strawberry water.

To make it, add those hulls – leaves intact – into a mason jar of plain water. (You’ll need about a pound’s worth of strawberries to get the full flavor.) Refrigerate overnight, then drain out the hulls. You’ll be left with a truly wonderful, strawberry-flavored water – light and so refreshing, you’ll want to buy more strawberries just to make another batch.

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