With the party season upon us, it pays to have a repertoire of knock-out hors d'oeuvres that can be rustled up well in advance.
Nothing could be easier--or more elegant--than party pates which microwave to perfection if you follow directions exactly. One is made from beans, nuts, cheese and bread crumbs (vegetarians, take note) and the other is a silky spread of chicken livers.
But first, a tip or two about microwaving chicken livers. The bits of fat and air pockets underneath the outer membrane sometimes make chicken livers explode in the microwave oven because steam and pressure build up with no means of escape.
You can prevent this by piercing the livers well with a sharp-tined fork. If the oven is a high-powered one (700 watts or more), the livers also will be less likely to explode if you cook them on MEDIUM-LOW.
BRANDIED CHICKEN LIVER PATE
2 slices bacon, finely diced
3 green onions, minced (white part only)
3/4 pound chicken livers, halved at natural separation and pierced well with fork
2 tablespoons brandy
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
1/4 teaspoon salt, about
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
Hot buttered toast, melbas or crackers
Microwave bacon in wax-paper-covered, 1-quart casserole on HIGH (100% power) 2 minutes, stirring at half time.
Add green onions and chicken livers, cover with wax paper and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 7 to 9 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes, until livers are just firm and no longer pink. If necessary, reduce power to MEDIUM-LOW (30% power) to avoid sputtering, but allow livers 1 to 2 minutes longer cooking time.
Cool mixture to room temperature. Drain, reserving liquid. Process drained mixture with 1/4 cup reserved liquid, brandy, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in food processor 20 to 30 seconds until smooth.
Add butter and pulse to incorporate. Adjust salt as needed. Spoon pate into 2-cup serving bowl, cross-hatch surface with fork tines, cover and chill 2 to 3 hours. Serve with hot buttered toast, melbas or crackers. Makes about 2 cups.
ARTICHOKE AND LIMA BEAN PATE
1 (10-ounce) package frozen lima beans
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 green onions, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup milk
1 cup soft white bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Cook limas with water, butter, green onions and garlic in covered 1-quart casserole by microwaving on HIGH (100% power) 7 to 8 minutes until very tender, stirring limas well at half time.
Puree casserole mixture and artichokes in food processor 15 to 20 seconds. Mix in milk, bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Pack into well-oiled 1-quart bowl.
Cover with wax paper and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 9 to 10 minutes, rotating 180 degrees at half time, until slightly puffed. Mixture will still be quite soft but will firm while cooling.
Let stand, covered, 30 minutes, then carefully unmold, sprinkle with parsley and serve with crackers. Or, chill pate several hours, unmold and roll in chopped nuts before serving. Makes 3 cups.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.