Earlier this week, it occurred to me that March was almost upon us. And with this thought I had a brief moment of fear as I wondered if I’d give up meat again for the month. It might be that the moment was fast approaching or that life is too busy to not be able to just throw a rib eye on the grill, wash some lettuce and call it dinner. But I was feeling mildly alarmed by this private pondering of abstinence. So what did I do? I announced on Facebook that I would be participating once again in Meatless March.
Just as the mardi gras celebrations allow folks to cram in some real celebrating before Lent, I too feel the need to eat my share of meat before the month begins. Just thinking about it last night put me in a near panic causing my body to convince me I was already becoming anemic. All this worry despite the fact that I knew last year was not really that hard. In fact, between the first few days of apprehension and the last few days of being just plain tired of having to think so hard, I really enjoyed the experience. But once the notion of iron-deficiency entered my brain, I was done for. I already knew I’d be making my dad’s famous chicken liver paté, or Gehachte, the next day. And, possibly, before the 1st arrived I would also have to maybe make some sausage, smoke some meat or fry some chicken. Or perhaps I should try to focus on my intention and plan of attack which is maybe why I started my day with what could only be described as a bowl of flavorful, crunchy slime with fruit on top.
The chia seed, known to me only once previously in the form of a terracotta ram growing sprouts that my mom let me bring to montessori before some kid smashed it on the floor, seems to be everywhere these days. I first re-encountered it in a new flavor of kombucha. Similar to a crazy basil seed drink I once bought a friend from the asian market (along with something called Pork Floss and some jar of potentially rotting fish) the kombucha was filled with a jelly-like suspension of tiny seeds. Imagine drinking something liquid, yet thick and bubbly, each mouthful a repelling, yet fun and almost childish crunchy-jello-caviar. I could not stop drinking it. I also could stop thinking how totally weird it was that I could not stop drinking it.
And then, somewhat surprisingly, I see a recipe for chia seed pudding in Food & Wine and decided to try it. It could not be easier. You simply shake 1/2 cup of seeds in 2 1/2 cups almond milk with some agave nectar and lemon zest and then put it in the fridge. Ideally you can shake it every once in a while and it will be that magic consistency in about 4 hours. I just stuck some in the fridge overnight and it needed some serious stirring in the morning, but really came together in true pudding fashion. Topped with toasted almonds, fresh mango and strawberries and it was delightful in that same disturbing way. And I stayed full for about 4 hours to boot. The seeds are a true powerhouse of good things and I think might be a staple in the month to come.
My dad spent a good amount of time writing his memoirs during his last couple years and I was lucky enough to find not only his gehachte recipe, but page after page of the origins of his Blairish cravings. Many of these stories were very familiar to me: the cake he tried to make his mom when he was nine that required a wood saw to cut through! the actual recipe for the drink made with Detso powder! Other passages shed luminous light on why I am the cook and eater that I am. “During those childhood years Cookie [his sister] and I were given dinner (called supper) apart from the grown-ups. It consisted invariably of either cold cereal, milk and sugar plus cream cheese or tomato on toast or alternately veal scaloppini containing a marrow bone.”
And certainly chicken livers in either their pureed state, or tossed in some heart stopping pasta with mushrooms, cream and peas, were a constant in my life. He was always making a batch for his friends with various hand-written (God help the recipient that had to read that writing) or typed labels such as “Grueseless Excroosh.” I have never actually made a complete batch myself though I did often help in the preparations and I have never had a bona fide craving for the paté until now. But I made it, with a couple modifications, and it was just what I was after. Comfort in a vat of liver and fat and the first in just a few more meaty meals before I give up cold turkey.
I was tempted to keep the recipe secret since it seems my dad did, but I have a sneaking feeling that all the folks he was bestowing it upon year after year were maybe a little tired of tub after tub of world-famous! award-winning! gehachte. I also think that while it has a special place in my heart, I won’t have to kill anyone to keep this stuff from being mass-produced.
1 tub chicken livers
a cup or so of milk
1 medium, yellow onion
some fat (I used duck fat because I could but my dad always used chicken fat)
cognac (entirely my addition)
Rinse livers, trim the sinewy bits, then soak in milk in the fridge for a couple hours. Rinse, pat dry. Season with salt and pepper, then brown in a pan until barely pink inside.
Add about 1/4 cup cognac to pan and simmer until evaporated. Cool.
Bring eggs to a boil, turn off heat, cover and let sit 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water, peel, set aside.
Finely chop onions and slooowwwwwllllly brown onions in butter (or schmaltz) with a pinch of salt until very, very brown. Almost black, they are so slowly and perfectly browned.
My dad would now just put the livers and eggs through a meat grinder and stir in the fat and onions, season and be done. For me, the grainy texture was never appealing, so I put the livers, onions, 2 eggs, s&p into the cuisenart and blended until smooth adding about 4 tablespoons of fat a pinch at a time until it was incorporated and velvety. I also stirred in some chopped parsley.
Finally, I separated the whites and yolks of the remaining eggs and pushed them through a sieve decorating the top of the paté like an egg. How cute!
Serve with grilled bread or crackers or just eat it from a spoon.