My Last Meal

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I’m not dying nor on death row. My last meal is something I’ve occasionally thought of, especially while enjoying favorite foods or dining at a fabulous restaurant. Or I’ll see a beautiful meal on a food blog and think, “That could easily be my last meal!”

It’s not a morbid thing in my mind. My last meal is a happy, celebratory thing, because if I could plan my last meal, then I’d also have the ability to eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, cause there wouldn’t be. It would be a day-long meal of happy eating and drinking.

Upon rising, I would enjoy coffee, as I have for decades. My day never starts without espresso. Maybe with a croissant with butter and seedless raspberry jam.

Two perfectly-cooked soft-boiled eggs.

Chicago pizza. From Giardano’s, cause they deliver.

Next would be warm, boiled, fresh potatoes with unsalted butter and slices of Fontina or Taleggio or Morbier. Or all three.


Then mimosas with my two daughters.

An everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. And I’d eat the whole bagel.

A baked Brie with a cherry chutney, and good bread.

I’d stop for some fresh spring radishes spread with unsalted butter and coarse salt.

Lasagna. No, make that pastitsio. Or both.

I’m not big on sandwiches, but my last day-long meal would have to include a BLT. Good uncured bacon, garden-fresh summer tomatoes, and lettuce.

Chips with fresh salsa, spicy queso, and guacamole. And a Pacifico.

Paté. My mother’s recipe. Or foie gras, medium-rare, served on grilled bread.

Pasta Trapanese. Or maybe Puttanesca. Let me think. With a favorite pinot noir.

There would have to be a full raclette spread, with at least 6 friends.

Fire-grilled octopus. Maybe mixed with other fire-grilled seafood, but lots of octopus. And squid.

Then my husband’s burger, made by him, served on a brioche bun, toasted with butter. With lots of ketchup and mustard. Eaten with my husband.


A glass of Sauternes.

Roasted chicken, just out of the oven, cooked to perfection. I will eat it right out of the roasting pan.

Dim sum. All of it. Except chicken feet.

Last but definitely not least – a cheese platter, with all of my favorites old and new.

I’m not a big dessert eater, but I do love ice cream. I’d eat so much of it that I’d need a blanket to warm myself up!

And there would be lots of port. Or sherry. Or both.

So all of this is unlikely to happen, but maybe the point is, we can enjoy our meals like they are our last meals? Each and every one? Not to the point of gluttony, of course, 😬

The French have it figured out. Aperitif. Long lunches. Fabulous food. Wine. Hors D’oeuvres. Dinner. Often with friends. Definitely with family. Dessert. Dégustation.

A croissant or crème caramel isn’t viewed by the French as calories or with guilt, unlike us Americans. It’s about enjoyment and moderation. My mother, at age 91, still enjoys chocolate every day, and a cookie.

Let’s enjoy our meals. You never know – one will be our last.

Smoked Trout and Shrimp Pate´

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Although I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, I probably would have balked at the idea of smoked trout, until I actually had it. And it’s spectacular.

Our younger daughter went to summer camp outside of Estes Park, Colorado two years in a row, and one time when we dropped her off, we stayed in cabins on a large, beautiful property. There were hiking trails and a large fish pond. They sold their own trout they smoked themselves on property.

The smoked trout was so good that we brought a bunch home in the ice chest. I just ate the smoked trout like one would enjoy kipper snacks – on crackers.

When I discover the paté recipe, shown below, I’m glad I didn’t hesitate to make it. It’s wonderful, in an unexpected way. I’m guessing this was cut out of Gourmet magazine, but I can’t find it online anywhere to confirm.

As the recipe states, cutouts of pumpernickel bread are fabulous, but so are any hearty crackers.

The recipe uses both smoked trout and baby shrimp, both of which I found canned.



The recipe is so easy because it utilizes a food processor for the room temperature cream cheese, lemon zest, trout, and shrimp.

Then it’s just a matter of folding in the green onion; I saved the capers to serve separately.

Serve the paté at room temperature.

Serve it with breads, crackers, and veggie sticks.

If you make individual canapes with the paté, buy an extra can of shrimp and put one baby shrimp on top of each canapé.

And don’t overprocess the mixture in the food processor. You want some texture.

You can serve the paté in a serving bowl with a server, or mold it in a bowl the day before serving and unmold onto a platter.

Foie Gras

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If I were ever asked what my last meal would be, it wouldn’t be a difficult answer. Foie gras, seared gently and cooked medium-rare, served with a compote of sorts and some toasts. It’s heaven on a plate to me.

Sadly, I can count the number of people I know who love liver as much as I do on one finger. So as a result, I’ve rarely prepared it.


Fortunately, I am able to buy beef liver where I live, and do enjoy it on occasion, typically with eggs and lots of browned onions.

And, I am able to purchase chicken liver in order to make chicken liver paté.

But there is just no comparing a slice of beef liver, or puréed chicken livers to the wonderfulness that is foie gras, and it was high time I purchased it.

My source for foie gras is the wonderful store and website D’Artagnan. The founder of D’Artagnan is Ariane Daguin, and her story is inspirational.

I purchased two lobes from D’Artagnan – one to cook sliced, and the other to make a paté for the holidays.

I chose to serve the foie gras with beet pancakes, which I made simply with grated beets, chopped shallots, egg, and flour.

Because fruit pairs so well with foie gras, I poached apple slices in a combination of apple nectar and maple syrup until soft, then reduced the liquid until syrupy.

Sometimes there is confusion, as one can make paté from liver, or one can make paté from foie gras, as my friend Stéphane did when I visited him at his home five long years ago. I got to help a little!

To prepare the foie gras, slice the lobe gently but firmly. Place the slices on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

I like to cook foie gras in browned butter. I prefer a lighter sear, so I immediately turned down the fire after turning over the foie gras slices.

It only takes a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. As I mentioned, I love foie gras medium rare. To the plate with 2 slices of foie gras I added a beet pancake, some of the nectar-poached apples, and then poured on a little syrup.


The combination was perfection, if I may say so myself!

I included the beet pancake for color, but one could place the foie gras slices on bread slices optionally.

If all you’ve heard about foie gras is the inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, please read this article by my favorite Serious Eats writer J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. The article is well-researched, educational, and also based on personal experience.

Pâté

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Pâté is one of my favorite delicacies. Of course, it helps that I like liver – a lot. This pâté has a subtle liver flavor because it’s made with mild chicken livers. It’s silky smooth and spreadable.

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Pâté is not to be confused with foie gras, which are actual lobes of fattened liver, usually goose, typically served in slices with a fruit compote of some sort.


There are also terrines, sometimes called Terrines de Campagne, which are dense loaves made from coarsely ground meats, that typically don’t include liver. Terrine slices are fabulous as part of an aprés-ski spread, especially for non-liver lovers.

Quite often in the fall or winter, I’ll make this simple and inexpensive pâté, even though I’m usually the only one who enjoys it. I like it served the traditional way – on toast points or bread, as part of an hors d’oeuvres platter.

This recipe is my mother’s. I’ve seen similar recipes, but I just stick to this one because it always comes out perfectly. Here it is:

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Pâté

2 pounds chicken livers, at room temperature
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Few bay leaves
2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
A few grindings black pepper
4 tablespoons cognac

The first thing that needs to be done is clean the livers. There are membranes and sometimes little blobs of fat that need to be removed. You’ll feel the membranes – just do your best to pull on them while holding the livers in the other hand, until you can pull them out. Then discard. Continue with all the livers, rinsing them as you go, and placing them in a colander.

Place all of the livers on paper towels to dry; set aside.

Meanwhile, have all of your aromatics ready to go. Then heat both sticks of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I like to brown the butter slightly.

When the butter is bubbling, add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes.

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Add the livers to the skillet, plus the thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper. After about 5 minutes of cooking and occasional stirring, add the cognac. Stir the mixture and let it cook for another minute or so. Turn off the heat and let everything cool down.


When it’s all cooled, cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight. Before making the pâté, bring the liver mixture to room temperature or even warm gently.

Remove the bay leaves. Place about half of the livers in a blender, not including all of the liquid. Have a rubber spatula handy.

Blend on low; it will look like it won’t blend, but it really will. Be patient with the mixture. Move it around with the spatula, and blend again.

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Once it’s smooth, pour into a terrine, or loaf-shaped mold, then repeat with the remaining liver mixture. The terrine I used measures 4 1/2″ x 11 3/4″, and is 3 3/4″ deep, but you can use multiple dishes as well.

Chill the pâté, covered, for about 2 hours. Then, cover it with about 1/4″ of duck fat or slightly warm butter. Then cover again and keep in the refrigerator for two days before using.

Serve at room temperature, with bread or toasts alongside a jam, chutney, or my favorite – Dijon mustard.

note: Except for foie gras, the terms pâté and terrine can be used interchangeably. I took a picture of this curried chicken and raisin “pâté” when I was wandering through Le District in NYC recently, (France’s version of Eataly,) and I bet it’s more of a meat terrine, and mostly likely doesn’t contain liver. To me, a pâté is smooth, and a terrine coarse in texture, sometimes even containing sausages or eggs. But never make assumptions. Do keep in mind that if you dislike liver, you could still enjoy terrines.
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Onion Confit

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I could live on hors d’oeuvres year round, and most of them would involve cheese. Actually, if I’m being honest, they could be only cheese platters, and I would die happy.

It doesn’t matter if the weather is warming up outside, to me there’s nothing much better than warm, melted cheese. It doesn’t have to be snowing outside for me to bake a brie. I guess the only exceptions are fondue and raclette, which I do limit to the cold months, but only because the meals end up lasting so long and being so heavy.

When when I do prepare a baked brie, or some kind of hot cheese canapes, I sometimes pair the cheese with a fig jam, a strawberry chutney, or a citus curd. Of course, that depends on the kind of cheese, but this following recipe for onion confit would go with everything from goat to cow cheeses, soft to hard cheeses, melted or not!

The onion confit is also a good condiment to serve with chicken, duck, pork, and grilled sausages. It would be really lovely served with a beautifully seared lobe of foie gras, alongside pate, or as a condiment in a sandwich of short ribs and brie. It’s really versatile.

Onion confit is sort of like a chutney, in that the onions are sweetened slightly. But because the onions are cooked in olive oil, and not caramelized, I’m calling it a confit. I hope you enjoy it!

Onion Confit

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cherry syrup or ruby port

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In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions, sugar, and salt and stir well. Cover the saucepan and turn the burner to the lowest setting. Cook the onions for 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, in a small bowl, place the red wine, balsamic vinegar, and the cherry syrup or port. The cherry syrup is fruity, the port adds flavor but also a subtle alcoholic component. You can play with just about any ingredient like grenadine, pomegranate juice, or maple syrup, adjusting amounts accordingly.

Pour this mixture into the onions, and cook, simmering the onions, for about 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. The onions will end up a nice oily, sticky mess.

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Cool the mixture completely, then place in a sterile jar. This recipe makes about 2 cups of confit. It can easily be doubled or tripled.

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I am guessing that this onion confit would freeze successfully, but that’s if there’s any left. It’s really that good.

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Onion confit topped on warm goat cheese, in the photo above, and on melted Fontina, in the photo below. It’s way better tasting than what it looks like, trust me.

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note: this post was originally published 2 years ago.