Food is odd in that you sometimes like or hate certain foods in all their forms, and then there are those foods you usually dislike, except when prepared in a specific way.
Coffee, tomatoes and other foods fill that niche for me. Perhaps liver is the best example, though. I don't remember ever eating it fried, but I have a hard time getting around the musty odor. Spice it and make it into a pate, however, and you have one of my favorite New Year's Eve dishes.
With pate being French, I am fairly willing to bet that it really came into popularity following the French Revolution. Many French delicacies came from starving people attempting to survive by eating whatever they could find, including snails, probably liver and albino elephants stolen from the zoo (it's probably good this one didn't catch on). I can't find much history about the origin, except that foie gras (French for "fat liver") made from geese is a pate that goes all the way back to Egypt.
Foie gras has landed in hot water because its production today includes force-feeding geese with fatty foods just to get a big, juicy liver. The Egyptians, however, used livers from geese that had naturally fattened up in preparation for migration. Take note, if you hunt geese in the fall you might be able to make a more humane foie gras from whatever you bag.
Live pate in general need not be limited to goose, of course. In Scandinavia, pork has long been popular, and of course, many people today make their pate from beef. Oddly, it seems you can also use liver from fish (the liver was prized by some aboriginal people), though it would be wise to use only a cooked pate recipe for freshwater fish (to avoid parasites) and not overindulge due to higher mercury density in filtering organs.
Some people eat fried pike liver and they seem fine, so one night of fish liver pate would likely be safe. Otherwise, stick with beef, pork and, of course, deer. You can even stick to braunschweiger if you really want to keep it simple.
Sadly, I cannot share the delightful pate recipe used for our most recent holiday gathering, but some friends shared with me their favorites.
Simple Dill Braunschweiger Pate
Courtesy of Whitney Grimler and Melinda Goehring
- 1 package braunschweiger pate (or similar)
- 1 package softened cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
Mix ingredients and serve with crackers.
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Intermediate Braunschweiger Pate
Courtesy of Kyle Borman and Jilayne Borman
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 package braunschweiger, cubed
- Finely diced onion
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Mix all ingredients on medium until smooth.
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Advanced Bacon and Beef Liver Pate with Rosemary and Thyme
Courtesy of Aleshia Mueller
- 6 strips uncured bacon
- 1 small onion, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound beef liver (I bet other liver would work as well)
- 2 tablespoons rosemary, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted (other solid fats may work as well)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
Cook bacon slices in a cast-iron pot until crispy. Set aside to cool and reserve the grease in the pan to cook the liver.
Add onion and cook for two minutes on medium high. Add the garlic and cook one minute. Add the liver and sprinkle with herbs. Cook until the center is no longer pink.
Turn off the heat and place contents into a blender or food processor with coconut oil and sea salt. Process until it forms a thick paste. Add more coconut oil if it is too thick.
Cut or crumble cooled bacon into bits and mix with the pate in a small bowl.