Cookery Maven Blog

Chicken Liver Pate With Quince, Pancetta & Calvados


I have a distinct memory of being a six year old at the dinner table with a plate full of liverwurst. I wasn't a fan of liverwurst in my younger years and if memory serves me correctly, I don't think I touched it. Fast forward 36 years, liverwurst has been reimagined as pâté and not only do I eat it with verve, I make it on a regular basis. I have to admit, my pâté bears very little resemblance to the Oscar Meyer liverwurst of my youth— it's not wrapped in yellow plastic, pancetta from Northern Waters Smokehaus plays a strong supporting role, the quince adds a hint of floral sweetness and chestnuts give it a satisfying crunch. Perhaps if I was presented with a fancy liverwurst/pâté at the tender age of six, I would've jumped on the organ meat bandwagon a lot sooner. Regardless, I'm on the bandwagon now and it's proving to be a pretty sweet ride.

Chicken Liver Pate With Pancetta, Quince And Calvados (Adapted From Fine Cooking Party Food)

3 containers (15 ounces each) fresh, all natural chicken livers
6 tbsp olive oil
1 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 quince, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup Calvados
2 sticks of butter (16 tbsp), at room temperature
3/4 cup chestnuts, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse the livers and trim off the tough tissue that connects the lobes; pat dry.

In a sauté pan over medium high heat, sauté the chestnuts until they are fragrant and start to turn golden brown. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the chicken livers, seasoning with a small amount of salt. Cook the livers, turning once or twice, to medium rare, lightly browning on both sides, about 4 minutes. Set the livers aside and add the pancetta, shallots, garlic, quince, rosemary and thyme to the pan. Gently sauté over medium heat until the pancetta is slightly colored and the shallots and quince are softened. Add the Calvados and deglaze the pan, scraping with a wooden spoon and cooking until the Calvados is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a food processor, combine the cooled livers, pancetta mixture and butter; process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Line small bowls or ramekins with plastic wrap. equally divide the chestnuts among the bowls and then add the pâté, lightly it covering with the plastic wrap and refrigerate until set. Grind additional pepper over the top before serving with crackers or slices of baguette. Keeps for a week in the refrigerator and up to 3 months (well-wrapped) in the freezer.

Monte's Ham & Dijon Roasted Potatoes

I once told my friend, Tammy, as we were putting in the garden at my house— 'hostas are the ham of the garden world. They're not fussy, are a crowd pleaser and deliver every time'. Hostas and ham, who knew? We all need a couple things in our lives that require very little intervention and feed a crowd or fill a shady garden. I had seen Monte's ham recipe in a number of magazines but the preface to the recipe in The 150 Best American Recipes sealed the deal, "Watching the other guests devour the glazed, glistening hunk o' pork, he (Monte) begged his hostess for the recipe. 'Buy the cheapest ham possible, glaze the hell out of it, and cook it for a long time' was her pithy, right-on response." With those Dorothy Parker-esque directions,  I knew what kind of ham I was making for dinner.

Of course, there were potatoes to accompany Monte's ham masterpiece. While I am a big fan of au gratin potatoes, I was in the mood for something less creamy with a little more bite. These mustard and rosemary potatoes were just the ticket— they're flavorful and develop a beautiful crust as they are roasting. I even found the Fine Cooking magazine from December 2000 in a pile of magazines I had in a box, complete with the original recipe and a piece of rosemary tucked between the wrinkled pages.

Mustard and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes(From Fine Cooking Magazine & Molly Stevens)

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 tbsp dry white vermouth or other dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1 inch dice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vermouth, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Dump the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them in a single layer. Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are crusty on the outside and tender throughout, 50 - 55 minutes. Serve immediately.


Charlie's Birthday Dinner

Charlie wanted grilled shrimp for his birthday. What a change from a couple of years ago when the request was corn dogs and potato chips. He is eleven now and has expanded his culinary horizons to include Thailand and Coney Island. I used a recipe from Fine Cooking and it has never failed me. I always cook the shrimp on separate skewers from the vegetables. The veggies take longer to cook and there is nothing worse than overdone shrimp— it's like chewing on an eraser. A little jasmine rice, grilled shrimp and vegetables and a chile lemongrass dipping sauce— an auspicious way to usher in Charlie's eleventh year.

Spicy Thai Shrimp Kebabs with Chile Lemongrass Dipping Sauce

Grilling Sauce

1 tbsp garlic, chopped

1 tbsp ginger, peeled  and chopped

1 tsp jalapeño, finely chopped

1 tbsp scallion greens, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup peanut oil

Dipping Sauce

3 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed, tough outer leaves removed nd tender white core finely chopped

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsp scallion whites, finely sliced

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

1 tbsp basil, finely chopped

1.5 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tsp light brown sugar

2 tsp Sriracha chile sauce

3 tbsp water


1.5 pounds large shrimp

2 red peppers, seeded and sliced

2 red onions, sliced

1 package of mushrooms


Combine all the grilling sauce ingredients in a food processor and process until combined, mixture will still be chunky.

In a small serving bowl, combine all the dipping sauce ingredients and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be made up to 6 hours in advance).

Toss the shrimp in the grilling sauce and let sit for 10 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto skewers (soaked in water) and reserve the dipping sauce. Toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper and thread onto skewers (soaked in water). Grill the vegetables over a medium hot charcoal fire and grill until done (8 - 10 minutes). About five minutes before the vegetables are done, place the shrimp on the grill, brush with the reserved grilling sauce and grill until done (about 2 minutes per side).

Serve with jasmine rice and dipping sauce.

Angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries is a Carlin tradition and since strawberries were in full swing, Charlie decided it was the cake for his eleventh birthday. Again, I forgot birthday candles but Jack found a couple of little tapers we could light up. We decided two candles look like the number eleven, Charlie agreed.

I picked a 'theme song' for each pregnancy and Charlie's was Sweet Thing by Van Morrison and it suits him to a T. He was the happiest baby and is a joyful young man. It sounds trite but I seriously can not believe how fast he is growing up. In eleven short years, he has mastered cribbage and jumping off cliffs at Devil's Island, learned a tremendous amount about Greek mythology, has a wicked dry sense of humor, knows how to sail an Opti and is an empathetic and brave soul— we couldn't ask for more.


Try A Little Thai On The Grill

Since I live many, many miles from the closest Thai restaurant, I have honed my Thai cooking skills. Not that I mind, I love the smell of lime, garlic, cilantro, nam pla and soy sauce. I made this chicken in 2003 for Charlie's birthday (my first foray into Thai cookery) and have made it ever since. That birthday party was also the first time I made mojitos for a crowd (before I had to develop and hone my bartending skills). I made pitchers of mojitos and forgot to mention to my guests that they needed to add soda water to mitigate the massive amounts of Bacardi Limon, sugar, lime and mint in the pitchers. Needless to say, it was a lively party and everyone needed to eat by the time dinner was served.

I love my grill. It is a Primo ceramic grill/smoker and in my opinion, it's perfect. In typical Maven fashion, I researched the grill question endlessly and it paid off. I can smoke ribs at 200 degrees, grill chicken at 400 degrees or sear a steak at 600 degrees. I am a big believer in hardwood lump charcoal because it free of any funky stuff and it burns steady and hot. I used to use Royal Oak Steakhouse blend charcoal (I bought it at Menard's) but switched to Cowboy because my local hardware store carries it. The charcoal chimney starter never lasts long around here, I always forget to watch it and the handle catches fire. Which begs the question— why do they use a wooden handle on a charcoal starter, planned obsolescence??

Thai Grilled Chicken (from Fine Cooking)

15 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 tbsp peppercorns, toasted and ground

3/4 cup minced cilantro stems (from about 1 large bunch)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 chicken, 3-1/2 to 4 pounds, fat trimmed and discarded, chicken rinsed and thoroughly patted dry

Make the marinade

In a food processor, mince the garlic with the salt. Add the ground coriander seeds, ground peppercorns, cilantro stems, soy sauce, and oil; purée until completely blended, 1 to 2 minutes. You'll have about 1 cup marinade. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and set aside (refrigerate it if you're working ahead).

Prepare and grill the chicken

Butterfly the chicken. Rinse the chicken and dry it with paper towels.

To butterfly a chicken, position the chicken breast side down. With poultry shears or a sharp chef's knife, cut along one side of the backbone and then down the other. Discard the backbone.

Turn the chicken over and press firmly on the center of the breast. You'll need to break the sternum and some ribs for it to lie flat.

Gently separate the breast and thigh skin from the flesh and slip a bit of the marinade under the skin. Then put the chicken and the rest of the marinade in a large zip-top bag, seal the bag, and massage it to distribute the marinade all over the chicken. Marinate the chicken refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. Half an hour or so before grilling, take the chicken out of the refrigerator, remove it from the bag, and put it on a platter.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire with the coals banked to one side or heat a gas grill to high on one side and medium-low on the other.

Spray the chicken generously with the vegetable oil spray and set it, breast side down, on the hottest part of the grill. Cook the chicken uncovered, turning once, until the skin has deep golden grill marks, 7 to 10 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and grill the chicken indirectly, turning every 5 minutes or so, until the juices run clear when the spot between the thigh and breast is pricked and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers at least 165°F, another 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with Sweet and Sour Sauce and Jasmine rice.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp rice vinegar

7 cloves garlic, minced

In a small, dry saucepan, toast the red pepper flakes over high heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the salt, sugar, and rice vinegar; cook over medium-low heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in the garlic. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool completely. Makes 1/2 cup