Chicken liver paté


Chicken liver pate

I recently got a copy of Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking, and have read it cover to cover. Her style suits me, and her recipes suggest delights and enjoyment of simple fresh food beyond measure. Her recipes are also for the more advanced and adventurous cook, because they do assume a certain knowledge and because they are not precise. She expects a cook to be a person who loves food, who loves to taste and think about flavor and texture, a person who makes use of the senses with intelligence.

I went to the market yesterday for milk, butter, eggs, etc and stopped at the butcher who makes my favorite lamb/garlic/pine nut sausages. As he wrapped those up, I noticed a container labeled “young fresh chicken livers, $1.99/lb”. I’d been debating buying a chunk of paté from the cheese shop around the corner (they carry the standard Marcel & Henri brand), but thought well why not try making some?

David’s directions are more detailed toward storage technique (“pack into an earthenware crock where it comes within 1/2″ of the top”) than actual cooking, so I also did a quick google and read both Jacques Pepin’s Everyday Cook recipe (which whips in even more butter to the finished product for a more mousse-like result) and a Bourbon-scented recipe at Epicurious. In the end, I drew from David and Epicurious, using more butter and sautéing the garlic and herbs before adding the livers to the pan, and using bourbon (which I had open in the house already – where we have no brandy and the bottles of port and madeira have yet to be opened) per the Epicurious suggestions. Per David, I used no onions, and used more bourbon than the Epicurious recipe called for (though not as much as David’s, though I will next time – the flavor is barely there). We had the finished paté today for a light lunch, with thinly sliced black rye bread (from 3 Girls Bakery, if you happen to be in Seattle). Rich both in flavor and texture, creamy and delicious. I should have taken more care in smoothing out the top – the clarified butter is thick at the edges of the bowl yet barely covered the slight peak in the center.

1 lb fresh chicken livers, trimmed of any thick connective tissue or greenish spots

4 oz butter (1 stick in the US)

1 finely minced large clove of garlic

1/4 tsp each of ground black pepper, ground allspice, dried thyme

1/2 tsp of salt if using salted butter. 3/4 tsp if using unsalted butter.

2 tablespoons bourbon, scotch, port, or madeira (though I think dark rum would also be pretty incredible)

another 4 oz butter

Melt 4 oz butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the minced garlic, herbs, spices, and salt. Let these simmer gently for a few minutes, until the garlic has softened somewhat but don’t let it turn brown.

Add the trimmed chicken livers to the skillet and sauté lightly for 5-8 minutes, until the livers are firm and lightly browned but still quite pink inside.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour in the alcohol. Let cool for a moment, then transfer to a food processor (or a deep bowl if you are using an immersion blender. If you want a real workout, use a mortar and pestle). Blend by pulsing until the mixture is a smooth homogeneous paste, then pack into a terrine or bowl that will leave you about 1/2″ of clearance from the top. Smooth the top of the paté as much as possible. Get a slice of bread or some crackers and wipe out the bowl and clean off the spatula and taste it warm. Isn’t it delicious?!

In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in a measuring cup or bowl in the microwave), melt the second stick of butter. Skim off the foamy top layer and let it settle for a few minutes so the milk solids tend to stay at the bottom. Gently pour the clarified butter oil onto the top of the paté, covering it evenly to the depth of about 1/4″. Refrigerate for 1/2 an hour, until the butter sets, then cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 12 – 48 hours before enjoying. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge if the butter seal is unbroken, and for about a week after you’ve breached it, kept well-wrapped.



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4 Responses to “Chicken liver paté”

  1. boxofbirds Says:

    I think more foods should come with a butter seal….

    I haven’t tried chicken liver pate, but I do love pork rillette which seems similar to liver pate so maybe i’d like this as well….

  2. Jaq Says:

    I found my copy of Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook the other day, which has a pork rillette recipe I want to try. Rillette is…oh…meatier than this paté. btw, I am a person who never could eat liver, not rumakis, not giblet gravy, not braunschweiger, not liver and onions, none of that – one bite would just grow and grow and grow. Yet I love paté and foie gras. Possibly a texture thing at play.

  3. Bloggers’ takes on Elizabeth David’s ‘Summer Cooking’ | Crumbs and Petals Says:

    […] Is that…. Pie? – Chicken Liver Paté  […]

  4. vinaweir Says:

    I have been using this recipe for fifty years or more! I have complaints from all my family, including three grandsons if it is not ready in my fridge before Christmas, it is so simple and always delicious, with fresh made hot toast or a good oatmeal biscuit. It takes very little time and can be made in a blender to make it extra smooth

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