Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cookbook Library: Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook

Probably no cookbook maven inspires the love/hate reaction that Martha Stewart does.  I don't think I am alone in this. I have at least nine of her cookbooks, not to mention a box of the little "Dinner of the Month" cards from her magazine that I have ripped out and saved for years, but I seldom cook from any of them.  I find that the recipes are either needlessly complicated (fine if you have staff on hand to help) or just go wrong, like she hides a booby trap in there designed to destroy the amateur's cooking confidence.

But, being determined to make at least one new recipe from every cookbook on my shelves, I turned to Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook.  I had a whim to make pâté for a little backyard picnic, now that the weather has finally turned nice.  But the Silver Palate recipe I usually use is a little time-consuming -- mostly because it requires final oven cooking in a bain-marie.  Martha's recipe was simple and pretty quick, although I skimped on the soaking stage:

1/2 pound chicken livers, cleaned
1/4 cup brandy
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp.
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
salt & pepper

A summary of instructions:

Soak the livers in the brandy for 3 to 4 hours in a cool place (I did this for one hour).Drain, but save the liquid.

Saute shallots in half the butter. Add livers, sage, salt and pepper and saute until livers are not pink inside (about 5 minutes).

Transfer to food prosessor, add remaining butter, and process until smooth. Add the brandy liquid. Proseess another 30 seconds.

Transfer to an earthenware bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

She recommends using a "Pullman loaf pan" and even provides the dimensions (good thing, because what is a Pullman loaf?): 16" x 3 1/2" x 3 1/2". Wait a minute. Look at the ingredients. There is, at most, one cup -- eight ounces -- of material involved in this recipe. If you poured it into a 16-inch long pan, even if only 3 1/2 inches wide, you would end up with a very thin, flat slab of pâté. I doubled the recipe and it still fit in a small crock not much bigger than a ramekin. 

OK. Having avoided the booby trap of the Pullman loaf pan, the recipe was easy enough and straightforward. I like a little cognac in pâté, so this seemed to be the recipe for me. I thought I had finally found a Martha recipe I would use often.

Oh, was I wrong. The cognac flavor was so overwhelming you could almost see the fumes rising off the cracker. Instead of tasting like pâté with a hint of brandy, it tasted like a liver-infused cocktail -- which is disgusting even to type.

Once again, Martha let me down. It was inedible. Our backyard picnic was heavy on cheese and olives.  The pâté went down the garbage disposal. 


I am interested to know if anyone has ever had luck with Martha Stewart recipes. Anyone? Anything? Please share! I want to know the secret.

Beth Fish Reads hosts a weekly event called Weekend Cooking It dovetails nicely with my goal of making one new recipe from all the books in my Cookbook Library.

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