The amount of butter can be reduced for a less expensive version, but it won''t be as smooth. Do not use margarine. If you don''t have homemade chicken stock, use a bouquet garni to enhance the instant kind. In place of prepared "fine spices," you may substitute a pinch each of white pepper, red pepper, mace, sage, marjoram, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg and tarragon.
For bouillon "stock," bring water to boil with chicken cubes. In a cheesecloth bag, tie parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme; place in stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bag and discard.
For pate: Marinate liver in cream for 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Rinse liver in cold water several times; cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boiling point. Immediately drain water, fill with fresh cold water and bring to boil again. Repeat procedure twice more. (This removes bitter taste.)
Now add chicken stock to cover liver and bring to boiling point. Turn down to simmer and cook 20 minutes. If time allows, let liver cool in the stock. Drain well.
Finely chop onions in food processor. Saute the onions in some of the butter until transparent but not colored. In a very large mixing bowl, blend all ingredients except the fine spices with liver and remaining butter.
Place batches of this mixture in food processor and process until very smooth. Repeat as needed. Add fine spices; taste and adjust seasonings. Some salt may be required. (When tasting warm, the seasonings are more acute than when cold. So add a bit more to achieve desired taste.) Taste for cognac and brandy; adjust accordingly.
Pack into well-buttered or oiled molds; gently tap to release any air pockets. Cover with foil; refrigerate. To unmold, immerse to half their depth in hot water, counting 10 seconds, then invert onto a platter. Garnish with carved flowers of radishes or tomatoes, if desired. Or spoon pate into a piping bag and squeeze out in swirls onto crackers or toasted bread rounds. Garnish each with a tiny parsley leaf.
To store several weeks, pour melted butter completely over top of pate in mold. Cover with foil; refrigerate. To serve, remove and discard hardened butter from top and unmold as above.
To glaze with Madeira: Heat beef stock and add packaged, unflavored gelatin. Allow to dissolve and add Madeira wine or dry sherry. Set aside to thicken slightly. With a pastry brush, paint glaze all over unmolded pate. Several coats may be required for an even glaze. Or pour glaze gently over pate by setting pate on a rack over a plate (to catch the overflow).
To vary, fold in walnuts or pistachios after blending pate ingredients in food processor. Then add the fine spices and taste.
Yield: About 4 lbs., or enough for a cocktail party of 16.