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Duck liver pate is a mixture of duck livers, spices, onions, fats such as butter and cream, and sometimes liquor such as wine, cognac or sherry. The ingredients are cooked quickly in a frying pan and then ground together in a food processor to make a paste or whipped spread. The recipe for duck liver pate is very similar to the recipe for foie gras, except the liver is from a duck instead of a goose and generally is much less expensive. The resulting pate can be used as a spread for crackers or toasted bread, or it can be used in dishes such as beef Wellington.
The prime ingredient in duck liver pate is duck liver. Before it is used, the liver needs to be cleaned and possibly soaked. To clean the liver, all the tissue, chunks of fat, gall bladder and other irregular sections must be removed. After this, the liver can be soaked in water or milk for several hours to remove some of the harsh taste and bitterness.
There are several recipes for duck liver pate, but they generally begin by melting butter in a pan and frying diced onions until they have taken on a golden color and the butter has started to brown just a little. Duck fat is sometimes used in place of the butter. Other ingredients — garlic, thyme, star anise, oregano or even bacon — can be added to the pan and fried to extract their flavor.
When the ingredients are done cooking, the liver is added and fried. It takes only a few minutes for the liver to cook all the way through. If wine or other liquor is being used, it can be added to the pan and reduced with the liver. In the last minute of cooking, heavy cream can be stirred into the mixture and allowed to reduce slightly.
The entire mixture is taken off the heat and placed in a food processor. Everything is then ground together to form a very fine paste. The more heavy cream that is added, the lighter the end result will be. If a large amount of cream is used, then the final duck liver pate will have a texture almost like a mousse. The finished pate is allowed to cool, after which it can be placed in a container and refrigerated for a few hours until it has set firmly.
When being served, duck liver pate can be spread on crackers, toast or vegetables. It also can be used in dishes that require pate or foie gras, such as beef Wellington. The pate is intended to be used quickly, however, because it will keep for only a few days in a refrigerator.