Coq au Chardonnay, Chicken Liver Pâté & Salmon Rillettes

Chicken has long been one of my favorite protein to cook. I find it so much more forgiving than any other types of meat because it really has to be cooked until well done and it almost always benefits from gently simmering for a while in any kind of a creamy sauce. Which is winning combination in my mind.

When I invited my friends Brian, Ernesto and Caroline for lunch on Sunday this past fall, I knew that I wanted to cook chicken as the main dish but I also got a special request to serve my chicken liver pâté as appetizer.

I think that this chicken liver pâté is actually what got me into slightly more ambitious cooking in the first place. I’ve had chicken liver pâté before but the revelation of how amazing it can be came with the one I had at the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville while on a memorable wine tasting trip in Sonoma two years go.

I wouldn’t have picked it out from the menu but my dining companion suggested we shared it and I was game. It was simply the most delicious rendition of this dish I have ever had – incredibly smooth and creamy texture with light and subtle taste. I could not get over how good it was, especially spread on very crispy crostinis.

Normally making pâté would have intimidated me but the dish too great not to try it at home. I came across a recipe that seemed simple enough and decided to make it that Thanksgiving.

I must admit that cleaning raw livers is not exactly my favorite thing to do but the result makes this rather gruesome task all worthwhile. My friends and I absolutely loved it and I have made it often since.

Ernesto, in particular, is particularly taken with it and always request “that incredible pâté darling” when I invite him over so I of course obliged and also made a small pot for him to take home.

The recipe is at the bottom of the post and I would recommend not skipping the step of straining the pâté mixture through a sieve after processing it in a blender – this is what ensures that it is silky smooth.

Since I was making a Thomas Keller (chef owner of Bouchon, the French Laundry and Per Se) appetizer, I decided to stay in the same food family and try out his Salmon Rillettes which were super delicious. I am kind of obsessed with tarragon and loved how its delicate anise flavor gently cut through the richness of the hot smoked salmon (which I of course procured from Zabars) and crème fraîche.

As for the main, I picked a recipe from Nigel Slater, the revered British food writer – his original recipe calls for Riesling but since I don’t like wines that are on the sweeter side, I opted to use Chardonnay instead and it worked very well. I served it with a green salad and plenty of crusty French bread to mop up the creamy sauce.

Chicken au Chardonnay

Salmon Rillettes Recipe

Coq au Riesling Recipe (the only thing I changed in the recipe is the wine varietal)

Chicken Liver Pâté Recipe from I Am A Food Blog (not available online so transcribed with my comments from her cookbook below)

450g chicken livers
2 small shallots, minced
30g butter
80ml whiskey
60ml heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp Chinese five spice
1/4 tsp pepper
2 sprigs of thyme
114g melted butter

Clean the liver and chop into 1.3cm cubes

Melt the 30g of butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and liver. Saute for 3-4 minutes until slightly brown but pink inside. Scrape into a food processor.

Add whiskey to the pan and boil over high heat until reduced by half. Add whiskey reduction, cream, salt, pepper, five spice and thyme to the blender. Blend until smooth. Add the melted butter and process again. Push through a sieve into container and chill for at least 2 hours but I would highly recommend making this a day ahead for best results.





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