We travel like french people... or pioneers

Monday, November 29, 2010

Some might call me picky, I’d say, instead, of course, that I have a sensitive stomach, am hyper aware of the affect food has on me-- my mood, my outlook-- and I’m frugal, but with expensive tastes.

Whatever the excuse, I find that I do a lot of cooking right before traveling. This is a somewhat learned trait, for better or worse. One Christmas I was able to withstand a 6 hour delay on my way home thanks to homemade pate sandwiches and a package of belgian chocolates, courtesy of my mother. For swimming parties, I make lentil salads. Actually, I seem to make lentil salad for almost any outdoor eating event.

This year for Thanksgiving we embarked on the long drive down to San Bernardino County and my in-laws’. We decided to take it slow, spend the night along the way. And since its been so temperate, why not camp along the way. I’ve been dying to take a camping trip with J, and now that he is potty trained it seemed like a perfect opportunity: and there are Yurts in the Santa Cruz mountains.

But anyway.... this trip was no different: a new granola recipe, chocolate biscuits, lentil salad (of course!), pate, plus bread, cheese, pears... for lunch and our afternoon hike. For dinner, we planned to grill hamburgers, toast the buns, roast some red peppers, and make s’mores. And perhaps whip up a salad on the side.

So. We got lost looking for camp, and arrived at our Yurt after dark. And while it has averaged 65 degrees from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, this week temperatures fell to record lows.

The hamburgers were reliably delicious, and so were the s’mores. The peppers burned, the buns got covered in soot. We had some toast.. and because I couldn’t find the food locker handle in the night, the only other thing we had to eat was the chicken liver pate left from lunch. We smeared it on the toast, drank beer, and chatted with other campers, the guys in the RV who gave us matches, the rangers who gave us firewood. It must have been funny, the city slickers with the toddler totally unequipped in the freezing cold eating pate’, but everyone ate it. ALL of it. And told me they loved it. It was what we had to share, to say thank you.

Every winter I order chicken livers, in anticipation of making lasagna, tortellini, “french” meatloaf. Inevitably, I have leftovers. But this year, it was the 70 degree heat that we had all month that foiled my plans. I didn’t make the lasagna or the tortellini, and not wanting to waste the livers before our trip, I turned to a old standby pate recipe. I love chicken liver pate. It is the perfect picnic food... and perfect for making friends and staying warm when the weather hits 25 degrees and you are sleeping in a Yurt (thankfully in super warm extreme-altitude camping bags, thanks to my crazy x-game brother-in-law).

Chicken Liver Pate, good enough for a yurt.
1 stick butter
1 c finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbs minced fresh sage
3/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 lb chicken livers, trimmed
2 tbs cognac or armagnac
3 tbs whipped cream

Melt 1 stick butter in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, allspice, and livers. Cook, stirring occasionally until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes. Stir in cognac/armagnac and remove from heat. Purée mixture in a food processor. Add whipped cream and stir to combine. Transfer pâté to crock/s and smooth top.
Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

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