Another WOW evening! My friend Lisa and her family had been trying to get together with us for ages and we finally got to hang out last night. It was made even more special by her daughter Isabel, who was on a whirlwind visit for a few days.
I love planning dinners with Lisa because she is gets just as excited about the food as I do. When we talked on the phone to make arrangements we didn’t discuss what were going to wear, but what we wanted to cook! I told her I had a pound of chicken livers in the fridge, and she was curious? It was an impulse buy after a visit to the dentist with my daughter….While in the waiting room Mr. Anthony Bourdain was in some Asian country eating up a storm of what I guessed to be organ meats (the sound was turned down). At this moment I have to admit to never having cooked chicken livers! My mother cooked chicken frequently during my childhood, but, she absolutely detested it! She told us she had killed so many chickens while growing up as a farmer’s daughter that she was turned off for life! When she bought a chicken to roast she hurled out the internal organs as fast as she could to dispel the memories of her having to pluck and gut countless numbers of this foul fowl. I’m afraid it rubbed off on me and I have been throwing out chicken’s insides ever since! That is, until I watched the TV screen in the dentist’s waiting room and they sizzled in spices and onions on a hot plate in some Shanty (Bourdain’s restaurant of choice in general) in the Philippines.
The funny part is that I love goose liver pate and I grew up eating the liver of cows and sheep (I guess my mother never gutted a sheep!). I decided then and there to try my hand at cooking chicken livers and get out from under my mother’s blanket of repulsion. I told Lisa about possibly sautéing them in a pan and having them as an appetizer? She told me that I should finish the dish off in the food processor and make a pate to spread on toast. So, between what I caught on the TV and Lisa’s advice, I made the appetizer.
Another admission, I never actually tasted the finished dish until everyone else did, which is completely unheard of for me. I taste everything I cook as I go and make constant adjustments. I pretended to myself that I didn’t make it as I spread it on a lovely piece of baguette bread and took a bite. I was taken by surprise by it’s depth of flavor and unctuous creaminess. It was delicious and, I think I ate more pieces than anybody else. The lesson is; going to the dentist is not always an unpleasant experience!
The evening was so much fun. When everyone arrived the kitchen was packed instantly. There are two stools crushed into the space which were claimed immediately and everyone else milled around drinking cold beer or wine while I got on with the important job of mixing drinks for myself and Lisa using the birthday present she splurged on me; Grey Goose Vodka! There were about 8 completely different conversation going at the same time and we were all taking part in each one of them! The only way I could disperse the crowd and stop bumping into, and climbing over people was to tell them that fish was going to be fried, and splattering vegetable fat was no fun when it landed on naked skin! I was free at last to get dinner together and make another cocktail.
We boiled the corn and fried the fish all the while munching on bread and pate, and sipping on drinks. Dinner was a lovely combination of tastes and textures and we all dove in and ate and ate. We never thought we would find room for the lovely batch of warm cookies and Ice cream that followed, but, after a short pause we rallied again. A wonderful night made possible by food, friends and my lovely family.
Chicken Liver Pate Recipe
You will need: 1 stick of butter (4oz, 8 tbs), 1 medium sweet onion, 1 lb chicken livers, washed and trimmed, leaves from 3 sprigs thyme, 2 tbs dry Marsala, 3 tbs heavy cream, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 – In small pot melt 6 tbs of butter slowly and set aside for later. Put pan on medium/low heat and add the last 2 tbs of butter. Saute onions and thyme leaves for about 10 minutes.
2 – Chop chicken livers into medium pieces and add to pan. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the Marsala and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
3 – Take off heat and stir in cream and melted butter. Place in food processor and blend on pulse setting for about 3 or 4 seconds (no more or it will be too paste-like). Scrap into a bowl and place in fridge for at least an hour before spreading on crackers or fresh bread. Top with a little more thyme or extra-virgin olive oil if you like.
Corn on the Cob
Put a big pot of water on to boil. When boiling, add corn and cook for 10 minutes. Remove to a heavy casserole and put lid on. This will keep corn warm on the table until ready to eat (this was Lisa’s handy tip which I will use from now on!). Serve with lots of butter and sea-salt flakes.
Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Recipe (makes about 3 doz big cookies)
You will Need: 8 oz unsalted butter (2 sticks, 226g), room temperature, 1 cup soft brown sugar, packed, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 1/3 cups white unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt (I use fine sea salt), 2 cups good quality chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60%), 1 cup toffee bits (I use Heath Bar toffee bits).
Preheat oven 375*
1 – In a large bowl cream the butter, vanilla and sugars until the mixture becomes creamy (about 4 minutes). Add eggs and continue to whisk until well incorporated.
2 – In a separate bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder using a manual whisk. Add this to the egg mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips and toffee bits and stir in ( a little elbow grease required as the dough is stiff)
3 – Using a tablespoon, spoon “blobs” of cookie dough onto baking sheet and bake for between 8 1/2 to 9 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds before sliding with an egg-flip onto a wire rack.
These cookies keep well in a plastic bag in the fridge or freezer and can be reheated in a warm oven on a baking tray any time of the day or night!