There’s something rather impressive about a homemade terrine or pâté - and they can be surprisingly easy, and cheap, to make. For some reason, they lie just outside the repertoire of a lot of professional cooks these days and very few young chefs have really taken the time to learn the even the basics skills of classic charcuterie.
That’s a real shame as charcuterie is the wonderful art of making pâté, terrines, Rillettes, galantines, sausages and other cured, smoked and preserved meats and we need to get back to those basic skills every now and then.
When I first started on my journey to becoming a chef, professional kitchens were divided into sections and the “saucier” was always considered the glamour job but I was always drawn to the “Garde manger”, occasionally mislabeled as the cold section or the salad station. In reality, this can be the most exciting and skill testing of all the stations in a kitchen. I mean you may not get to prepare all those fancy sauces and cook tenderloins and lamb racks, but lets be honest, any cook worth his salt should be able to take a piece of tender meat, season and cook it properly. In the unfashionable world of the “garde Manger”, you had to take few very unglamorous cuts of fatty meat and a couple of kilos of chicken’s livers and turn them into something special…now that takes real skill and dedication.
At the restaurant we normally keep a terrine of some description on the menu, as I still love them today and it is a great vehicle for chefs to showcase some basic skills. One of my favourites is a very decadent but beautifully presented pressed foie gras with black truffles and green asparagus jelly (see photo). It’s true that some terrines or pâté such as this one can be a bit too time-consuming and technical for the home cook. But If you want to whip up a simple, classic parfait de foies de volaille, you basically only have to devote yourself to a bit of butter-clarifying, brandy-flambeeing and chicken-liver-sieving or blending and its job done!
SMOOTH CHICKEN LIVER PARFAIT WITH ONION-APRICOT CHUTNEY
· 350g unsalted butter
· 500g chicken livers, trimmed and soaked in cold milk for at least 2 hours
· 1 garlic clove, crushed
· 1 small onion, finely chopped
· 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
· 2 tbsp brandy
· 4 tbsp cream
· Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 80g clarified butter*
· A few fresh sage leaves
Onion & apricot chutney
· 2 large onions, finely sliced
· 12 dried apricots, chopped
· 200ml orange juice
· 2tbsp sherry vinegar
· 2tbsp brown sugar
· A knob of butter
To make your clarified butter, heat the butter in a pan over a very low heat. Cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes until completely separated. Skim the clear butter off the top place in a bowl. Set aside about 80 grams to cover. Drain the chicken livers and pat dry with a clean kitchen cloth.
Heat a little of clarified butter over a gentle flame and add the chopped onion, garlic & thyme. Cook for 1-2 minutes to soften and then add the chicken livers. Cook the liver gently for 3-4 minutes and add the brandy to the pan. Flambé the brandy and add the cream.
Place in a food processor and blend until smooth with the rest of the warm, melted clarified butter. Season well with sea salt & freshly ground pepper. Pass through a fine sieve and pour the mixture into individual ramekin or bowls. Cover each one with a little clarified butter, a couple of sage leaves and a pinch of sea salt. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set. Serve with chutney and toasted chunky bread.
*Clarified butter is a form of “clean” butter where certain solids are removed and only the pure butterfat remains. Unsalted butter is slowly melted, allowing the milk solids to separate from the transparent golden liquid and for any water to evaporate. Milk solids also cause the butter to spoil, or become rancid so clarifying the butter ensures that when you use it to cook certain things they will have a longer shelf life.
Onion and apricot chutney
Heat the butter in a saucepan over a gentle flame. Add the sliced onions, chopped apricots, orange juice, sugar and sherry vinegar. Cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Season to taste. Place in a jar and cool for at least 4 hours.
SIMPLE DUCK RILLETTE
You can buy duck confit already cooked, although they are very simple to prepare.
Spread a little rock salt in the bottom of the dish and place the duck legs on top in a single layer. Place a couple of garlic cloves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme around them. Sprinkle a good amount of rock salt on top. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, remove the duck legs from the salt, wash them lightly in cold water and dry them. Preheat the oven to 140˚C/275˚F/Gas Mark 1. Put the legs with garlic and herbs into a heavy dish, add duck fat, cover with a lid and cook for 3 hours until the meat comes easily away from the bone. Do not brown; add a little water if necessary.
· 4 confit duck legs, skinned
· 1 garlic clove, crushed
· 150g duck fat
· 1tbs chopped parsley
· Tiny pinch of nutmeg
· A splash of brandy
· A couple of fresh thyme sprigs
· Rock salt and freshly ground black pepper
Strip the meat from the bones into the bowl of a food processor. Melt the duck fat and add about 100g to moisten the meat. Add the, garlic, parsley & nutmeg. Season with sea salt & black pepper.
Pulse the meat several times to combine all the ingredients, taking care not to overwork the mixture.
Divide the mixture between sterilised jars or ramekins, pressing it down to remove any pockets of air. Pick the leaves from the sprigs of thyme. Cover the surface of the rillette with the last of the melted fat and sprinkle over the thyme. Seal the jars tightly. Store in the fridge and eat within one week. Serve with peach & saffron chutney and toasted bread.