When I left home, my mother gave me a Betty Crocker cookbook. She knew I didn’t take advice well, but she also knew that when there was nothing else to read I had memorized the contents of toothpaste. I was broke, but accustomed to her (very good) food. I had to learn to cook. And I had to learn to cook with the least expensive of ingredients. One of my earliest and most successful forays was liver pate.
Betty Crocker should not be disdained. As I grew more sophisticated I discovered virtually every recipe in their cookbook is a simplified version of a classic recipe. Can better cooks do better? Of course. But we don’t all of us have the know-how, or the time, or the energy always. It was a great place to start.
Betty’s liverwurst was pretty simple: soften onions in butter. Add liver (I used chicken livers which back in the Pleistocene era were $0.98 a pound). When the liver is stiff, puree, adding more butter and whatever herbs were in vogue back in 1980. Foie gras of course involves butter and bechamel etc. It’s easy to add marjoram, or garlic, or curry. You can substitute lard for butter. etc.
Pictured above is an even easier way forward, and in my lazy old age more often my recourse than not. I buy commercial liverwurst, and serve on a cracker with Kraft Cream Cheese and white onion sliced fine.
BUT (and note the size of that butt!) if you really want to dress up a meal, you need to add a glass of wine. And the absolute best wines for pate are sauterne. Needless to say sauterne was way outside my budget… but dessert wines weren’t then and aren’t now.
The pictured Torreon de Paredes in Canada retails for not much over $10, as do other Chilean late harvest wines. Grecian muscat, usually from Samos is available for less than double that for a 750 ml bottle. These days I mostly resort to White Port which costs in Canada about $20/750. It is also an extraordinarily useful cooking wine in sauces, so I pretty much always have an open bottle in the fridge.
So go forth and cook! Buy liver! Buy onions! Buy cheap sweet wine! You’ll die fat and happy, and what matters more than that?