away and back.

Oh, hello Mid-December! When did you get here? What happened to the rest of November?

Well you might ask.

November is one of my least favourite months, generally on the dreary side in our city – which makes up for its lack of snow with an endless supply of unpleasingly grey days – and seeming to plod along without much in the way of celebration.

Still, I feel I have managed to compensate by conjuring up enough in the way of good times to shore me up all through the mania of this month and well into the next (lucky, lucky me!); and, as ever when I have fallen woefully behind on my posting (sadly a more regular occurrence than I’d like), I have many things to tell you.

I’ll begin with an epic turning point that happened – unbelievably – two weeks ago now: One of my very dearest friends was celebrating her birthday, and, somewhat on the spur of the moment, I packed a smallish bag, boarded a train, and went to Montreal.

All by myself, without my husband or (more significantly) my children, for the first time ever.

And, in spite of an anxiety attack the night before I left that was nearly crippling enough to make me change my mind about going, I had an absolutely wonderful time. I ate and drank with the kind of abandon that I haven’t enjoyed in years; caught up with my people; and marvelled at how things had changed while revelling in all of the things that had stayed the same.

It was a perfect weekend; and almost before I knew it, after many many glasses of champagne and an abbreviated night’s sleep, I was back on the train, exhausted and happy and filled with longing for my family.

The feeling of gratitude that welled up when I stepped off the train and saw them waiting – all having weathered my absence with no difficulty at all, thank you very much – has stayed with me ever since.

Just before I went away, I had some friends over for one of those evenings that turned out to be quite a bit later and slightly more debauched than any of us intended. I had a twinge of regret the next morning as I attempted to wrap my head around everything I had to do that day, but every time I think back to that evening I can’t help but smile.

One of the snacks I served was this luscious pate, indulgent and pleasing and one of my oldest recipes. It feels apt to offer it up today along with my feeling that, away and back, it’s so, so good to be here.

Duck Liver Mousse with Walnuts

Duck livers can be difficult to find, but chicken livers, happily, are not. Try to get the very best quality though.

1 lb duck or chicken livers, membranes removed and fat trimmed
1/4c melted unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2c cognac
3c chopped walnuts
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

Preheat broiler.

Dice livers and place in a large mixing bowl along with melted butter, chopped onion, and a pinch of salt. Toss well and spread evenly on a shallow, oven proof pan with a lip. Broil 4-6 minutes, turning once, until livers are golden.

Place 1/4c cognac and walnuts in food processor and process until smooth. Add livers and remaining cognac and process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add butter pieces, nutmeg and thyme and blend thoroughly. Pour into small ramekins or glass bowls and refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight.

Serves 4-6, with enough leftover to send home with your guests.

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