Sunday, October 10, 2010

PFB2010 Challenge #4: Laurent Tourondel & BLT's Chicken Liver Pate

8720 W Sunset Blvd
West HollywoodCA 90069
(310) 360-1950

It's no secret to anyone reading this blog through time that I love to recreate at home things I have eaten out; from Jonathon Sedlar's Mexico City Sundae and Andre Guerrero's Oyster Po' Boy Sliders to Chaya's Happy Hour albacore poke and Nob Hill's pear/pomegranite/tarragon highball. Usually without a recipe, throwing caution to the wind. Today I took a more well traveled path.

chicken liver spread at BLT

I have been in love with the chicken liver pate at BLT since first bite.  BLT is one of our favorite steakhouses in town, in the world. It is sleek in that Hollywood way, with deep leather booths, sofas in the lounge area, soft lighting. But BLT is also earthy. Place mats are anatomically correct maps of prime beef cuts, salt & pepper are served in giant stainless steel shakers, and the raw bar menu is published on a board with plastic letters like the ones kids stick to the refrigerator door. Best of all BLT starts your meal off with huge popovers and a heavenly chicken liver pate in glass hinged Mason jars.

equally infamous popovers at BLT

This chicken liver pate is ooh'd and aah'd about all around the country. It is raved about from Hawaii to White Plains.  Foodies Like Us comment, This pate is so good I want to take it on a naughty weekend to Las Vegas.” Even the Chowhounds are chatting about its delicious decadence.  When we dine at BLT it is this dish I am anticipating with mouth watering preoccupation. So when I advanced to the fourth round of the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog, I decided to take on this simple and somewhat seductive offal spread.

Challenge #4's prompt:

Sure, you can take a pretty picture. But your task here is to go above and beyond and use the photography to create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial of how to make something. It could be anything from how to bone a chicken to how to make your favorite recipe, but it must tell us how do it using the photo series to show us as you tell us. Choose your recipe wisely and create a photo series that's easy to follow and tasty too! The Text should support your Photos, but the emphasis of the Post should be telling the story through the Photos.


I did some digging and found the recipe published online at The Washingtonian in the Best Bites blog. Happy day! Although Chef Laurent Tourondel is no longer with the BLT group, The Washingtonian reports that this is his recipe and is published in his cookbook, New American Bistro Cooking.


Serves 6
1 bay leaf
7 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup ruby port
1 shallot, thinly sliced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced, plus 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1¼ teaspoons pink salt (or regular sea salt)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons duck fat or extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Fleur de sel, as needed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 thick slices country bread, toasted
Cornichons or pickled vegetables for garnish

PFB2010 Challenge #4

Clockwise from upper left: bay leaf, thyme sprigs, garlic and shallots, one pound chicken livers, ruby port, olive oil, Spanish brandy (the good stuff, it's all we have, I took a sip maybe), sweet butter, duck fat, three kinds of salt (kosher, fleur de sel, Hawaiian red salt) and freshly ground pepper. When I am my best cooking self, I organize my items ahead of time. Being this organized while cooking causes less of a maelstrom in my mind but I admit to enjoying playing the mad scientist from time to time in the kitchen.

Time to get started with the mise:


Thinly slice shallot.


Garlic tutorial: When chopping or slicing garlic, there is a fast and easy way to get garlic out of it's shell.  Place flat edge of chef's knife against clove. Hit the side of the knife rather hard with the heel of your palm, above left. Above right, see how the shell is split open? Below left, the paper peels right off and you are left with a slightly crushed clove completely shell free.


For this stage of the recipe, slice garlic thinly, like a smaller version of the shallot.

Make the reduction:
Tie the bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme together with kitchen twine. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the port, herb bundle, sliced shallot, and sliced garlic to a simmer. Cook until the port is reduced to the consistency of a thick syrup. Remove the herb bundle.

PFB2010 Challenge #42


Above, to the port I add herbs, garlic, shallot all loosely rather than tied together for lack of kitchen twine.  


When reducing a liquid, you need to bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Then back off heat so liquids are at a slow simmer.  


A reduction is a physical process, not chemical like so many things that happen in the kitchen. Reduction is simply when the water from your liquid evaporates due to the heat and escapes as gas into the air around you. This leaves your liquid thicker with more concentrated flavors.  You can see the results of the reduction above. There is much less liquid in the pot and as I swoosh the wooden spoon through the thickened liquid the syrup-like texture oozes slowly to refill the space.


The recipe asks that I remove the entwined herbs from the syrup, but since I don't have twine I have to strain the herbs from the liquid using a small hand strainer. The entire original cup of liquid barely makes a quarter cup reduction in the bottom of my Pyrex measuring cup.

Cook the chicken livers:
Season the chicken livers with the sea salt, pink salt, and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the duck fat in a large skillet over high heat. When the pan is nearly smoking, add half the livers and brown on 1 side, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until golden brown but still pink in the center, about 1 minute more. Stir in half of the chopped shallots and chopped garlic. Pour in 1½ tablespoons of the Cognac and heat 1 minute. Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.


Heat duck fat on medium-high until very hot.

Cooking the liver is not the prettiest stage of the process.  The recipe asks that we cook the pound of liver in two halves. I imagine this is so you can keep a close eye on the cooking process. Overcooked liver is not luxurious and seductive. Also, instead of seasoning the livers themselves, I seasoned the very hot duck fat in the saute pan.


Next, I added the fresh chicken livers, tossed with the seasoned duck fat, brandy, garlic and shallots. 


I sauteed until one side was nicely browned but I could still see pink in the middle.  I gently turned the livers and browned the other side, then removed to a glass bowl. Both sides should look nicely browned as below.


It was really starting to smell fantastic in my cozy kitchen.

Blend the mixture: 
In a food processor, combine the livers and port syrup. Process until smooth. Blend in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. (The pâté can be made ahead up to this point. Cover and chill for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the spread in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until warm.)

PFB2010 Challenge #44

Top left, cooked liver in the glass bowl. Moved to the ancient Braun processor top right. Bottom left, I added the ruby port reduction/syrup. Bottom right, I pureed the deliciousness.


To blend in butter, I quartered the two tablespoons of unsalted (sweet) butter. I used the pulse function on my Braun to blend the butter slowly, creating some fluffiness in the pate.

To serve:
Remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs. Garnish the pâté with the thyme leaves, a sprinkling of fleur de sel, and the extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm with country bread and cornichons or pickled vegetables.


Naturally, because I am more of an executor than an innovator, I spooned mine into a Mason jar. Garnished with a tiny sprig of thyme and a little olive oil, it is waiting in the fridge for tomorrow's mah jongg. I licked all the spoons. My reproduction is equally as wonderful as what I could have for dinner just 9 miles west on Sunset at BLT. 


I caught my sous chef taking a nap in the back room again. He is so fired.


Tourondel's chicken liver pate in action at mah jongg the next day. On a slice of ciabatta with thyme leaves and a little apricot jam from The Cheese Store of Silverlake.  Delicious.


Sippity Sup said...

I am sooo making this. Not only is the recipe fabulous, but the photos ensure success. GREG

girlichef said...

Oh wow...this looks sooo delectable! Something about chicken livers and duck fat that makes me feel sophisticated...great tutorial and best of luck in this round :D

sally said...

I always recreate things at home that I have eaten in restaurants - it is a great way to learn to cook! I love your photography by the way, really beautiful clear shots.

weezermonkey said...

OMG, amazing.

tgirl said...

It was sooooooooo GOOD! And your photos have inspired me to make it.

It's With A K said...

As you may already know, I am no fan of organ meat, particularly liver. HOWEVER, you've made this pate look delicious. You had me at duck fat.

Hannahmeg said...

this looks stunningly amazing. The photographs out of this world and ticking the boxes on instructional. IN awe over here

Hannahmeg said...

this looks stunningly amazing. The photographs out of this world and ticking the boxes on instructional. IN awe over here

Lauren Zabaneh said...

Excellent post! Love the pics, really great step-by-step. I think my favorite was the reduction...looks so good and syrupy. yum.

thank you for stopping by Foodie House! So glad to meet you! I do have a question...what's a wheelhouse? is that a astrology thing? just curious. cheers!

Amelia PS said...

I am going to make this soon, VERY soon! Wonderful step-by-step!

Anna said...

Yummmm, that Popover is something right? Great post it looks delicious. I never been to that cheese store at Silverlake. I have to check it out. Good luck in this round and have a great week.

Daily Gluttony said...

This looks incredible. Will be making.

Food, she thought. said...

@Sippity: Do it. It was spectacularly easy!

@GirlChef: The duck fat gave me a little pause, but it really made the liver incredibly smooth.

@Sally It's so fun to challenge yourself. Look at a blog called "We Can Cook That". A couple people have an entire blog project about recreating what they eat in nice restaurants with no recipe.

@T Make it!

@Karla I think you would like it.

@Hannah: Thank you for even reading with your crazy schedule! Can't wait to see you this summer.

@Lauren "wheelhouse" is a term I hear most when watching pro-tennis. It means something that is completely within your skill set, in tennis the ball would be exactly where you want it to hit the crap out of it for a winner. In food, you made something completely within your skill set and did an amazing job.

@Amelia Make it, it's easy! And it makes a lot!

@Anna The owner of the Cheese Store of Silver Lake is a peach. He will customize delicious cheese trays or baskets to suit your event or the cheese "level" of your guests. And what a place to browse. I bought truffle honey when I was picking up the duck fat & apricot jam.

Food, she thought. said...

@Daily Gluttony It's mutual appreciation between you and I. Saw your quinoa bimbimbap on Tastespotting and am going to make sometime soon!

Brie: Le Grand Fromage said...

great recipe and photo tutorial. hilarious comment about your adorable dog, too. best of luck - you have my vote!

Amy (Sing For Your Supper) said...

What a great post!! And I love the picture of your sweet doggy!! The Pate looks to die for!!

Karen said...

I'm coming across some very sophisticated recipes in this round and yours certainly is one of them. I'd love to give this a try.

The Cuisinerd said...

Hello Yum town - I love Pate!

sophia said...

The last time I had liver, I almost puked. I ended up just spitting it out with a nasty taste in my mouth. Only you, with your sensuous descriptions and luscious pictures, will tempt me to try liver again.

Anonymous said...

A fabulous recipe and an excellent step by step tutorial!

Whitney said...

wow i am beyond impressed!

Whit @ Amuse Bouche

Jeanne said...

This pate looks amazing, and after watching your tutorial I know I could recreate it! Excellent work!

We Are Not Martha said...

Wow, this is an awesomely ambitious post and definitely a process I've never seen before. Fabulous job and your end product looks spectacular. Good luck!! :)

CrystalsCozyKitchen said...

Great tutorial... I would say that chicken livers are still not in my list of food I ever want to cook though. I sent a little red heart your way - Good luck!

riceandwheat said...

Yum - I've never tried making pate before but you make it look so easy! Did you get the livers and duck fat from a butcher? Good luck this round!

michelle @ The Domestic Mama said...

great job! Heart to you!

jen cheung said...

Excellent post - you got my vote for this! Good luck :) Feel free to hop over to leave a comment :)

Have a wonderful day!
jen @

life, in recipes said...

This looks so good - thanks for sharing the recipe, and the technique. Voting now:-).

Fiona at Life on Nanchang LU said...

Yummo! I love this post, and you make it look easy. Bet it tasted great too.
As a fellow mah-jong-er, I have to tell you I won FIVE games in a row today. Too bad we weren't playing for money........
Hope your fellow players appreciated the pate!


Jacob's Kitchen said...

Great tutorial! Your photos are gorgeous, as always. And a good chicken liver pate can be such a delicious treat. And you make the process look clear and easy. Nicely done. I voted for you again!

Good luck! hope to see us both in round 5!! =)

Joanne said...

Pate is one of those things that I eat when it's placed in front of me (and I love it!) but I couldn't really fathom making it at home. Well you have done it and done it well! Love this post. You've got my vote!

And thanks for stopping by my entry!

The Young Foodie said...

Thanks for the vote! Your spread looks amazingly delicious! Good luck to us both! Happy eating!

The Young Foodie

Savory Sweet Living said...

I love all kinds of liver and offal. Chicken liver is so underused, and great step-by-step pictures. This is a great recipe. You got my vote and good luck!

Lick My Spoon said...

That is an epic Mah Jongg snack! There are so many great flavors mixed in, I bet it's fantastic. Good luck this week, voting for you!

Lick My Spoon

The Cilantropist said...

Always wanted to make pate and have never tried it! Great post! :)

Mariko said...

Making pate is too scary for me. I'm totally out of my league when it comes to offal.
But I think I'd be licking the spoon too. Apricot jam sounds like such a lovely combination.

Daily Spud said...

I have to admit that I have no particular inclination to make chicken liver pate myself but if I did, I'd be coming straight back here to see how it's done. Great job and best of luck!