EDISON, NJ - It’s holiday party season and I’m sure, if you are like me, a new tasty appetizer recipe would sure come in handy right about now.  Chicken liver pate is sure to impress and, between you and me, it’s super easy to pull off.  I think pates and terrines scare people a little bit but the fact is that they really are not tough to make.  You can make it ahead, which is a real bonus if you are planning a party, and it will last about a week in the refrigerator.  There are lots of ways of making chicken liver pate, with a myriad of suggested methods and ingredients.  This recipe is not only easy but it’s pretty tasty too.  Go ahead and dip your big toe into the pate pool and try it.  Serve it with some dark, crusty bread or crackers and some onion marmalade or a similar sort of sweet and savory spread.  Serve it on its’ own or as part of a larger meat and cheese platter.

Almost forgot…in my opinion it’s important to go with organic chicken livers here.  They are a bit more expensive but I’ve used both organic and regular chicken livers and I have to say the color difference alone is amazing.  The regular ones are paler, almost red gray, and they have little fatty deposits that are visible and need to be removed.  The organic ones, by contrast, sport a very vibrant and deep blood red/burgundy color and generally they are absent of any fatty deposits.  It’s a pretty amazing contrast.  At any rate, I think it’s worth going organic here.  I bought mine at the meat market and they ordered them for me and I simply picked them up the next day.  If you don’t want to go through that trouble, use the regular ones…just be sure to remove the whitish/yellow fatty deposits before proceeding.

Ingredients:

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1 Pound organic chicken livers

1 ½ Onions, chopped coarsely

4 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

4 Fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Olive oil

Grapeseed oil

Heavy Whipping Cream

¼ Cup Cognac, plus more as needed

Pinch of nutmeg or mace

Fine sea salt

1 ½ Sticks of unsalted butter

Instructions:

  • Gather food processor and large heavy bottomed skillet.
  • Coarsely chop onion and garlic.  Heat heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add a couple tablespoons of grapeseed oil along with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions and sprinkle with a bit of fine sea salt.  Cook onions until fully cooked and slightly browned.  You may need to adjust range temperature downward as you go.  Once the onions are done, add the garlic and cook another minute or two, until garlic is softened.
  • Poor onion and garlic mixture into bowl and set aside.
  • Dry off chicken livers with paper towels, season with a bit of fine sea salt.  Wipe pan out and place back on range over medium heat.  Add a couple tablespoons of grapeseed oil.  Place chicken livers into pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan…you will likely have to cook a few batches.
  • Cook chicken livers over medium heat until the livers are cooked, but still pink on the inside (about 2 minutes per side).  Once done, add chicken livers to a plate and continue with the same process until all the chicken livers are cooked.
  • Once the chicken livers are finished, bring the livers and the onion mixture to the food processor.  Add both the livers and the onions to the food processor and turn on to puree. 
  • While running, add the cognac, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and a couple tablespoons of cream.  Continue pulsing until you achieve a smooth consistency. 
  • Add salt to the mixture and pulse again.  Taste the pate and adjust the salt level.  If you feel it’s too thick, add a bit more cream a couple tablespoons at a time until you get to a texture that you like.
  • Sometimes if you overcook the livers, it will result in a grainy texture.  One way to fix this is to that the pate and place it in a fine mesh strainer.  From there, simply push the pate through the strainer a little bit at a time, scraping the bottom into a bowl.  This should help that out a lot…though it will take some time and it creates a bit of a mess…so you can do this or just remember to cook the livers a bit less the next time.
  • Place the pate into ramekins or smaller bowls and set aside.  Level the pate off the off with either an off-set spatula or a knife.  
  • Place butter in small saucepan and melt completely over a low to simmer setting on the range.  As the butter melts the butter/milk solids will separate from the oil/fat.  The solids will look milky white and the oil will look deeply buttery.  Remove the solids from the butter with a spoon until all the solids are removed.  You are left with clarified butter.
  • Spoon the clarified butter over the ramekins or bowls until the pate is completely covered.  Once covered, add directly to the refrigerator uncovered with anything else.  Allow the clarified butter to completely solidify.  If after that, pate specks peak out from the butter layer, simply add more clarified butter over it and place back into the refrigerator to solidify again. 
  • Once done, cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

To serve, bring it out about 30 minutes or so prior to serving.  Serve with crisped, toasted dark crusty bread along with some onion marmalade or other sweet and savory items such as cornichons, etc.  To make it a meal, add a salad.

PS:  you can either eat the butter as part of the pate or you can simply remove it.  Truth be told, I eat the butter right along with it and my wife removes it.  We both enjoy it so I don’t think you can go wrong either way, though removing it is probably ultimately a bit better for your health.

Craig Thiebaud is a Diplomat of Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) located in SOHO in New York City. After extensive training in the Art of French cooking and professional food preparation in general, he brings his knowledge of food and passion for cooking to us by sharing culinary techniques and creating recipes that mainly use local, seasonal ingredients and can be easily recreated in the home kitchen. Good, wholesome meals for the family can be created quickly with planning, using the best techniques with the best ingredients that are both affordable and available. Let's get back into the kitchen together!