I lost my little Rat Terrier, Ruby Tuesday this week. I stare across my yard, the domain over which Ruby truly ruled, (along with the house, my other old dog, Phoebe and the two nonchalantly terrorized cats) and know that it will eventually come back to life. The two feet of snow that covers everything alive and lively there will melt and all will be renewed in the spring, but Ruby won’t be there and it makes my heart ache.
She was 13, a good, long life for a dog, but still. She had a slow growing brain tumor that made her drink too much water and pee too indiscriminately on rugs, while sporting a sort of senile Tasmanian Devil look across her face.
In the last few weeks her appetite waned and it was hard to get her to eat anything, even homemade chicken dog stew, but until the end she always took the little biscuit I’d give her as a bedtime ritual. Even if she didn’t eat it, she wanted to make sure Phoebe didn’t get it. That was Ruby. She was a fierce protector. A Doberman in an 11-pound Terrier body that made UPS men and dogs five times her weight walk a wide berth around her yapping bravado.
I was given a copy of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook by my son, Max who works for Keller at The French Laundry. I have another story about the book that I’ll save for another post, but when I saw this recipe for Dog Treats I teared up thinking of Ruby and how she would have gone crazy for these chicken-liver-infused treats. I wish I had made them for her. And isn’t that the hardest part of grief, of losing someone you love, the wishing for more time to do what you didn’t get a chance to, the wanting so badly to take back the moments you weren’t at your best with them? Loss steals away any illusions about the luxury of time we think we have to appreciate and acknowledge all we hold dear to us.
I’m going to make these for Phoebe, and she’s going to love them.
For the treats:
1 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch wide pieces
13 ounces chicken livers, in into ½-inch pieces
¾ cup + 1 tbs fine cornmeal
3 cups + 3 tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock, unsalted
For the glaze
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 egg white
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two sheet pans with silpats or parchment paper.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 4-5 minutes, until it has rendered its fat and is a rich golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Pour off all but a generous film of bacon fat. Add the chicken livers to the pan and sauté, turning them frequently and smashing them slightly for about 5 minutes, until broken down to a paste. Remove from the heat.
Place the bacon in a food processor and pulse a few times to grind it. Add the chicken livers and process to combine, then add the cornmeal and process until you have a coarse mixture.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and mix to combine. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and mix until the dough begins to gather around the paddle and feels moist to the touch. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead it just enough to combine.
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll it out to a 3/8-inch thick sheet. Using the dog bone cutter, cut out the treats and arrange them on the prepared sheet pans. Knead the trimmings together, roll out, and cut out the additional treats.
Bake until the treats are completely dry, about 1 ½ hours in a convection oven (3 hours in a standard oven). Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 200 degrees.
For the glaze: combine the ketchup and egg whites; the glaze will be very thick. Brush it over the top of the warm treats. Return the pans to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the glaze has set. Place the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the treats to the rack to cool completely.
The treats can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 month.