Duck Liver Pâté

Alas, the 2019 Yucaipa thylacine hunt has been expunged from the Internet.

It all started with my friend David calling my attention to an article about the great burgeoning of Midland, TX, owing to the oil boom there and my observation that the only good thing about Midland that I could think of was that most of the drive-in burger places sold fried chicken livers, many doing an excellent job on them. And then once I was thinking of chicken livers, it was an easy step to chicken liver pâté and thence to duck liver pâté, which triggered a craving so intense that I immediately spent an hour digging through my two-inch-thick folder of loose recipes for Walter’s Duck Liver Pâté. Only after I found it did I go online and look at the recipes there so I could chart a middle course.

My recipe naturally begins, “First, catch the duck livers”.

I haven’t been to Chinatown in search of ingredients in decades, and that ought to be fun. Oh, but wait. The reason for deserting Chinatown was my discovery of good markets on Clement St. The fringe benefit there is that directly across the street from May Wah is a little hole-in-the-wall dim sum place called Good Luck or Lucky or something like that with about three sticky tables in back and a crowd of folks at the take-out counter in front clamoring for the attention of the surly counter girls. You put up with them because the quality of the dim sum there is quite high and the prices are quite low, a winning combination.

A little digression. My Chinese barber introduced me to that place and warned me about the girls, saying that she’d made a point of speaking pleasantly to them in futile hope of making them less surly. Nope. And then a memory from forty years ago of my Chinese friend Michael’s response when I mentioned the rudeness of the clerks at that legendary Dupont Street Market, famous for their smoked ducks, chickens, and char siu (叉燒 ) hanging in the window. (The name of the street had changed to “Grant” in 1906, but the owners never felt a need to waste money on changing the name of the store.) I thought the rudeness of the clerks there was because I was white; but Michael observed that, oh no, their English wasn’t good enough to be as sarcastically rude to me as they were to him in Cantonese and that the reason they were rude is that they hated casual customers like us because the small quantities we bought were lots of trouble.

Anyhow, I went to Chinatown to catch the duck livers, but turn your back for twenty or thirty years and see what happens. The Dupont Market was no longer there on the north side of Grant, and the big butcher shop I remembered on Broadway was gone. But around the corner on Stockton there was a meat market that had the four most beautiful duck livers I’ve ever seen, and they were the ones left in the tray after the others had been sold. Who knows what the really good ones had looked like.

And four was enough because these things were so large that together they weighed well over a pound. I browsed around online but ultimately decided that I’d just stick with Walter.

All Walter did was sauté a small onion in butter, throw the livers in until done, deglaze the pan with brandy, and grind all that up in the food processor with some black pepper, a few leaves of thyme, and 4 T. cold butter. But do I ever leave well enough alone?

Oh no, I was seduced by one of those online recipes into adding a bit of cream and unthinkingly poured in way too much. So much that the end result, while delicious, was so thin it would barely stay on a cracker.

And finally, in case anybody needs yet another duck liver pâté recipe, I hope to get around to providing the details I left out of the above description and sticking it onto my Recipes menu.

Meanwhile, since we’re talking about food here, I’ll add a photo of Ume Shiso, a little extra dish Yoshi at Sushi Zone sometimes treats me to. All he does is hold a peeled cucumber horizontally and with a large knife slice off a sixteenth-of-an-inch sheet of it as he rotates the cucumber around its axis. Then he wraps that around a bit of fermented Ume plum, dresses it with sprouts, cuts it into bites crosswise, and lightly drizzles it with a vinegar sauce.

I get this because I’m a very regular customer who’s also brought new faces in. And maybe, too, because I’m one of the limited number who’ve who’s spotted his little tip jar on the counter and used it.

Yoshi's treat

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