The more I experiment with trying the stereotypical “high society” food, the more I laugh at that whole cuisine. So far it’s mostly been stuff that I’ve already had before, or really similar to something I’ve already had. Polenta, for example, is the same as the “mush” that Mom made when I was growing up. The difference is that Mom would chill hers after it cooked to set it, and then slice it and fry it. Served up with butter and syrup. This is as near to breakfast perfection as one can get in my opinion. Well, served with bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Like I posted previously, bone marrow reminds me of dipping your bread in bacon fat. Venison? Grew up on the stuff. Gnocci? Terrines? Fancy words for potato dumplings and headcheese, both were regular items growing up. I could go on, but I want to get to my latest addition to this list of peasant food that was stolen and given highfalutin names. Pate. Very tasty, but really nothing more than liverwurst. And I’m sure you’re tired of me saying this, but grew up on that stuff too.
One quick aside before I get to the recipe. A while back Lindz and I went to Andrew Zimmern’s book signing here in the Cities. When he was signing it, I told him that I grew up on a lot of traditional Polish foods and most of what he showed on Bizarre Foods wasn’t all that different from what I ate. He agreed with me and said that as you travel the world you discover that food basically isn’t all different. I’m beginning to understand this. You start to learn to appreciate the nuances in the seasoning and the quality of the cook. And an aside to the aside, if you ever get the chance to meet Zimmern, do it! He’s a great speaker and a genuinely nice guy. We had a blast at the book signing.
Now, onto the pate!
This whole little adventure started with a trip up to Mom and Dad’s. I was rummaging through the deep freeze looking for meat to swipe. Mom was down in the basement with me and asked if I wanted a package of liver. I hesitated for about a half a second and then said yes. At that point, I was just planing on pan frying it with some onions because that’s what you do. After I got home, it occurred to me that I could make some pate. After a bit of digging, I found a really basic recipe that sounded good, also it was one of the very few that called for beef liver instead of chicken.
- 1 lb Beef Liver, cut into pieces
- 1 small Onion, chopped
- 1/2 C Red Wine (did not use)
- 2 cloves Garlic, crushed (used something like 8)
- 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 sprig fresh Rosemary (used about 1 Tbs dried)
- 1 sprig fresh Thyme (used about 1 Tbs dried)
- 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
- 1/2 C Butter
- Salt and Pepper
Saute the liver and onions in a couple of tablespoons of the butter until the livers are browned and the onions are tender.
Add wine, garlic, mustard, herbs and lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has gone.
Cool and blend to a smooth paste in the food processor (or a stick blender like I did) along with the rest of the butter. This is easier if the butter is not fridge cold. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check the consistency of the pate. If it seems dry and crumbly rather than smooth and creamy, add more butter.
Like I said earlier, very, very good, but it tastes just like the liverwurst I grew up on. Good memories.
I love my Grandma. She’s 93 years old, still lives in the same farm house she has lived in for the last 60-ish years, and she is not afraid to let you know what she thinks. For example, when I brought Lindsay home to meet my family for the first time, my Grandma commented that “It was about time that I bring someone home.” Yup, direct quote. One of the other reasons that I love my Grandma is because she is one of my inspirations of what food can taste like and the joy that it can bring.
One thing that I grew up on is headcheese. Whenever I tell people that this is one of my favorite foods, I always get one of two reactions. The first option is “Uh, what is that?”, and the second is “Really? People actually eat that???” First, headcheese is a terrine made with the meat off of a pig’s head. This is a fancy way of saying that it is meat suspended in flavorless gelatin. Sounds good, right? To answer the second question, I have only found one person outside of my family that likes it. Narren grew up eating it as well, and I want to thank him for making my family look normal. But yes, people do eat this.
I’ve always eaten it with a little bit of ground pepper on top and a splash of white vinegar. It tastes just like a pork chop that is served cold. I think it’s a texture thing with most people who actually try it. I really don’t understand it because I can’t think of a single person out there who doesn’t like jello. I’m sure that they are out there, but I don’t know any of them. I’m not judging, I’m just saying I don’t get it.
This has been a very long route to what I wanted to get at: My Grandma made headcheese!!!