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Charc Tank

Perfect your holiday charcuterie board with a top L.A. chef
Kris Morningstar's Charcuterie Plate
Video & Photo: Dave Katz & Saint Hereford/Tasting Table 

"That's small," Kris Morningstar, the chef/owner of Terrine in L.A., says, a little disappointed after pouring some brandy into a hot pan of sizzling chicken livers.

Then, whoosh—a whirl of flames shoot up, transforming those purplish little bits of offal into the makings of something rich, garlicky and delicious, specifically, chicken liver pâté (see the recipe).

"When I'm building the perfect charcuterie plate, I want to get sweet, salty, a little spicy and some creamy all on the same plate," he says, as he pulls together his meticulously chosen but easy-to-replicate charcuterie board (watch the video above).

And today we're working on the creamy element.

"I first got excited about making charcuterie after my first failure making squab liver pâté," Morningstar says. "I cooked it in a water bath, and it was horrible. The texture was spongy, and because of that massive failure, I really dedicated myself to becoming really good at charcuterie."

That's exactly what he's done at Terrine, his year-old Mid-City temple to all things salted, cured and meaty, and his attention to detail, flavor and balance as seen, er, quickly devoured from the charcuterie board has earned him local accolades, like LA Weekly's Best New Restaurant this past year.

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However, the man who has made foie gras and rillettes his playground and pretends he's Bob Ross while passing the puréed livers through a sieve—"Now we're going to paint a happy tree," Morningstar says jokingly—wasn't always a huge fan of chicken livers.

"Growing up, I had always been scared of chicken livers. I really didn't understand them," Morningstar confesses.

Instead, Morningstar was used to the big hearty ragùs his dad made for dinners, sneaking in and sprinkling some fennel seeds, or cooking one special meal for the whole family at 14 years old, firing up bourbon- and garlic-marinated tri-tip and some very delicious asparagus—"I had no idea what blanching was," he says with a laugh. "So I cooked it from start to finish in brown butter, and it tasted really good."

A panful of hot chicken livers, scented with thyme, shallots and garlic.

But that first chicken liver pâté, one from Suzanne Goin's A.O.C., where he later went on to cook, changed everything.

"It opened up a world for me," Morningstar says.

Now, his butter-blended version at Terrine is a must-order—"Guests come in specifically for the chicken liver, because it's addictive and crack like," he says. And, luckily for us, it couldn't be easier to throw together as the holiday season mounts.

"When I think of a charcuterie plate, I think of something people can eat in a very communal way," Morningstar says. "And not only is charcuterie great during the holidays, but it's something great to eat anytime you're having a party."

No water bath required.

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