Pate de Foie Gras in the Sky:
An Elegant, Bygone Time in Air Travel

After sitting for four-plus hours in a plane as it taxied from one runway to another at Denver International (due to inclement weather), it occurred to me that air travel isn’t the same animal as it used to be.

My own thoughts—I’m bored out of my mind. We’ll never take off. It’s only a seventy-minute flight!—mingled with the disgruntled remarks and sighs from my fellow captives. But then an unusual thing happened. The passengers on this plane became a society, and when we eventually did lift off, many of us clapped in joy.

I know you’re curious to hear more about these events.

First off, we all became pretty clear in short order of who needed what. The older folks (and I was one of them) needed more bathroom time than younger ones. There were three exhausted moms whose babies had no snacks and no watered-down juice left in their sippy cups. And there was a dog in a crate that only barked once.

Though the crew brought the refreshment cart down the aisle once during this long ordeal, they had to return it to the station at the captain’s order. (In case you forgot, the seatbelt sign remains lit during taxiing, so passengers are not allowed to move.) But, oddly, no one complained. This magnificent moment in time was filled with courtesy, respect, and kindness. It touched my heart.

Many hours later, when our flight had reached its destination and we all deboarded in an airport that had all but shut down for the night, I observed something amazing. As we waited for our luggage, though travel-weary, we actually talked to each other, making it a point to share our personal take on what had transpired—praising our fellow passengers’ behavior, assuring the mothers that their babies were so quiet they didn’t even know there were babies aboard, and telling absolute strangers how delightful their time together was.

I may be dating myself once again, but there was a time when air travel was an event to remember. It was, indeed, a special part of the journey to exotic, faraway places. The flight itself was a luxury!  I was on one such a luxurious aircraft back in 1962, on an overnight flight to Paris with my brand new, extremely handsome husband. It was our honeymoon.

A honeymoon in Paris is something a girl back in the 1960s only dreamed of. Even my girlfriends from private school were green with envy. (Though I should tell you privately that the City of Lights may not be the best destination for honeymooners who don’t get out of bed until almost dark. What were we thinking? But, as I’m fond of saying, that’s the makings of another interesting post.)

The plane we boarded was akin to today’s Airbus A380, which is the largest passenger airliner currently in the skies. With two decks, it was humongous. There was first class, business, premium-economy, and economy. Even the economy class had a spiral staircase between the two decks, and the service was magnificent. (But as I remember it, all service back then was magnificent.)

During the flight, we were served an elegant breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we could choose options for each meal. One of the appetizers I remember to this day was the pate de foie gras, served with accouterments and so delicately plated that I would call it “eye candy” today.

You’ve heard that the devil is in the details, but it’s not the devil at all. It’s the details.

If you could, if only in your mind’s eye, imagine the luxury, the sheer elegance, and the pampering afforded to the passengers in this bygone time—and being served pate de foie gras at 30,000 feet—you too would be green with envy.

Easy Pate de Foie Gras

Chef’s note: This rich, satisfying pate rivals the French version for texture and taste. There is so much to be said about presentation here. We tend to value store-bought over homemade, but I hope this recipe will help you rethink that misconception. This is the best you can get anywhere. Enjoy the luxury.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons clarified butter
1–1¼ cups goose, duck, or chicken livers
1 shallot, grated or minced superfine
2 tablespoons goose fat (schmaltz) or salted butter
3 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons dry white wine (such as Sauterne)
½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a small sauce pan or skillet, sauté the livers for about 2–3 minutes in the clarified butter. Do not crowd the pan. The livers should be barely browned and not fully cooked. Remove them to the bowl of a small food processor.
  2. Add finely minced shallot to the pan and cook until soft (not brown). Add shallots to the livers and pulse the mixture in the food processor until fairly smooth.
  3. Add schmaltz, hard-boiled eggs, and wine. Pulse until combined. Add salt and black pepper and adjust to taste.
  4. Line a mold that your pate will fit in with plastic wrap. (If you have a decorative one, use it.) Pack the whole mixture into the mold, pressing it down a little. Refrigerate 4 hours or more. The longer the better.
  5. To serve, unmold the pate onto an oval platter. Smooth top if necessary. Serve with pickled pearl onions, baby cornichons, and simple crackers of your choice.

Images from iStock/anyaberkut (main), MargoeEdwards (post). 

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at [email protected] Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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