To be honest I didn’t know whether to write this blog post or not. I considered ‘chickening out’ more than once.
Talking about eating meat is fraught in this day and age. It seems to cue an ardent type of anonymous social media vegan. The vegans I know personally accept our meat-eating ways and concentrate any protest efforts on industrial animal raising. #MindYourOwnFork is one of my favourite hashtags.
Hopefully that paragraph has protected what follows with a type of wordy smudge stick, but we shall see.
We eat chicken. Over the years we have worked out that is a big deal. Eating chicken is not an easy thing to do when you grow your own.
Every year we buy thirty-ish one-day-old Cob 500 chickens. This is a specific breed of meat chicken and chances are this is the breed you eat when you buy commercial chicken from anywhere.
They are such a different breed of chicken from your standard egg-laying chook they could almost be a different animal. They have been bred to eat, and to grow incredibly fast as a result.
As soon as they are old enough we feed our chickens only soaked and sprouted New Zealand grain. Despite this we can ‘dress out’ a fourteen-week-old chicken at 3.6 kilos (that’s a size 36 chicken. Yep.)
However we reckon the Cob 500 has been ‘overbred’. Despite their massive legs they often have problems with mobility and invariably we lose a chicken or two. We’d never let an animal suffer this way. I shudder to think what this means on a commercial scale.
Thirty chickens divided by fifty two weeks in a year is not a lot of chicken compared to common consumption. Add the complication that a single cut like breasts or thighs involves a lot more work, and I refer you back to the statement that ‘eating chicken is not an easy thing to do’.
So I guess in a nutshell, that’s why I’m writing this blog. I’d like to challenge anyone that eats chicken, without thinking, to consider this a little more.
They’re not easy animals to raise. To be completely honest meat chickens are not nearly as clever as our egg chickens. We have to net their large enclosure because they never see hawks coming (they are also white- not an awesome North Canterbury camouflage colour). There isn’t a mature rooster to manage any other type of predator or the pecking order. A lot of their natural instincts have long been forgotten. They require a great deal of close attention to keep them healthy and happy; much more than our sheep, pigs, cows or ducks.
But they are completely delicious. So when we eat a chicken it’s a big thing. We eat as much of the chicken as we can. That includes the heart and the liver. We’re working our way up to the feet. It may be a while. Although we’re perfectly happy to eat if someone else has prepared them.
Therefore a chicken meal is a major celebration in our house. More often than not it’s something we share with our friends.
So it was with this chicken liver paté a couple of nights ago with friends Jess and Nik.
Once again this recipe owes a lifetime of gratitude to Stephanie Alexander.
The Food Farm Chicken Liver Paté
600g chicken livers (to make 500g cleaned)
100g softened butter
2 tablespoons brandy
freshly ground black pepper
righteous amounts of freshly grated nutmeg
splash of cream
Cut away any greenish stained liver. This is only applicable if you’re not killing your own chickens. Enough said.
Heat one-ish tablespoons of butter (a recipe is a guide only, after all) until just foaming. Would highly recommend a non-stick frying pan at this juncture.
Add half of the livers and sauté quickly until golden brown on each side and still quite soft in the middle. Both Stephanie and us would like to point out that livers jump and spit. Therefore naked cooking is not advisable (that’s a Food Farm edit, not a Stephanie one).
Sauté remaining livers in the same way.
Add all livers back to the pan, increase the heat and add the brandy (or any other handy spirit- not enough room here to list variations over the years on The Food Farm)
Add a little salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.
Transfer to a bowl and blend with a stick mixer. Then push through a sieve and add the remaining softened butter. Check the seasoning.
Press the paté into a small pot or pots and chill well. The surface will oxidise (darken in contact with the air). If you want to stop this, cover with a thin layer of clarified butter.