I returned yesterday from four wonderful days at the Surprise Valley Writers’ Conference in Cedarville, CA. At the reception on the first evening, I offered everyone a taste of something I made a few weeks ago, and which I was a bit nervous about sharing: bear liver pate.
But this story actually begins back in August when my husband, Dennis (I think I must call him The Mighty Hunter from now on, MH for short), shot a bear with his bow. Yes, that’s right, with his bow! No dogs, no gun. Anyway, we have an “eat all of what you shoot” policy around here, and we like bear liver, but it’s a lot for just the two of us. So I started looking around for things to do with half a bear liver, which weighed in at about 1.5 lbs. I thought of pate, and I thought surely someone would have made bear liver pate and posted a recipe online, somewhere. Surely. But no. I couldn’t find a single bear liver pate recipe. So I started reading other pate recipes and decided that yes, I could adapt a recipe. Whether or not it would taste good? Well, we’d just have to see.
I made the pate (recipe to follow) and tasted it. And nearly swooned. Oh boy, is that good stuff. But I had to try it out on the MH. (Remember him? The guy with the bow?) And he approved. Of course, he’s a bit like Mikey and will eat anything, so I was still a little nervous about it. I put most of the pate in the freezer, and waited for my dear foodie friend, DeAnna Beachley, to arrive the day before the conference.
I picked DeAnna up at the airport in Reno, and by the time we got home, we were hungry enough to eat a . . . no, I won’t say it. I had pulled one of the pate mounds out of the freezer that morning and put it in the fridge to defrost. We had a satisfying little repast of pate, almond flour crackers I’d baked the day before, a hard cheese called Hirtin, cherry tomatoes from the garden, cream cheese and jalapeno jelly. And to go with all of that, a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. To my great relief, DeAnna’s reaction to her first bite of pate was a lovely little moan, and an “oh, that’s good!”
I felt reassured by her response to the pate, but still, I was nervous about serving it to a bunch of writer folks at the conference. I put the pate on the paper plate provided, surrounded it with crackers, and went to the kitchen to get a knife. By the time I got back, they were already digging into it with the crackers. Judging by what was left on the plate at the end of the evening and the comments I received during the event, I think the bear liver pate was a hit. So here’s the recipe.
Bear Liver Pate
1 lb. bear liver (about half a liver, after cleaning and de-veining)
1 med. onion, sliced
3 cups water
3 tablespoons sherry
¼ cup chopped onion
¾ cup softened butter
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground is best)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
In a medium saucepan, combine water, trimmed liver cut into 1-2 inch chunks, and sliced onion. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until liver is cooked and tender. Remove from heat, drain, and discard onions. Also remove and discard any hard portions of the liver.
Place cooked liver in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Add chopped onion, sherry, butter, salt, black pepper, and spices; blend well. Form pate mixture into a mound (it helps to butter your hands), and place on a serving dish. Chill for 1 hour before serving. This will make a large mound or about 16 servings.
Instead of making one large mound, I lined three small bowls with plastic wrap, pressed the pate into the bowls to form it, then wrapped it securely with plastic wrap. I chilled the pate in the bowls until firm, then removed the pate from the bowls, still wrapped tightly, and stored them in a plastic freezer bag in the deep freezer. They can thaw overnight in fridge before serving, or for several hours at room temperature. The pate needs to soften a bit before serving.
As I was leaving the conference and saying my farewells, I spoke to a young man whose reading I’d particularly enjoyed. I told him so. He said, “Thank you. I really enjoyed your bear liver pate.” Although I didn’t read this time, I suspect if I had, he’d have thought my pate was better than my poetry. Well, some things (like bad puns) you just have to bear.
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