I read somewhere recently that pâté had gone out of style. That bothered me, because, as is often the case with superficial food trends, it makes no sense that an incredibly delicious food with a deep history can be declared a has-been just because there isn't a media frenzy around it right now. In protest, I'm pushing back. Pâté is here, and it's here to stay!
That said, I can understand why most of us don't make it too often at home. The fact is, it's rich, which means it's more practical to buy a small slice than to attempt to eat your way through an entire homemade terrine. But that's also exactly why a homemade pâté is such perfect holiday food—it's indulgent, special-occasion stuff, and with groups of people coming together for large meals, it's unlikely any of it will go to waste.
I created this particular pâté last year and brought it as a contribution to my family's Thanksgiving meal. Instead of using the more traditional liquors like cognac or Madeira, I reached for bourbon and a bit of apple cider instead, to play up the American spirit of the holiday. And on top, in place of a classic aspic, I made a gelée from cranberry juice, which goes so well with all those other flavors. It was such a hit that it's been requested again this year, so I decided to perfect the recipe and share it here as well.
The method itself is very classic. I start by searing the livers over high heat until just browned on the outside but still pink in the middle. It's critically important that you don't overcook the livers, since well-done ones will produce a very grainy pâté. Some recipes have you deglaze the pan with liquor while the livers are still in it, but I find that this comes with too high of a risk of overcooking them. Instead, I take the livers out as soon as they're done, then quickly sauté minced shallots and some thyme, and finish by deglazing with the bourbon and cider—all with no worry of the livers spending too much time in the pan.
Once that's all set, I transfer everything to a food processor with some butter and turn it into a smooth puree. The last step—pushing the pâté through a fine mesh strainer—is admittedly a little tedious, but I swear it's worth it for the extra silky texture you'll get.
Once the pâté is ready, I transfer it to a large ramekin or terrine and smooth the surface, then pour the cranberry juice, which has just enough gelatin to set it, on top. The gelée acts as a barrier to air, which prevents the pâté from discoloring and also helps it keep for several days in the refrigerator. Just be sure to give it time to soften a little at room temperate before serving.
I guarantee, no one will eat this and call it sadly passé. Lovely pâté, on the other hand, may be something you hear.