Chicken Liver Pâte
I’m guessing you already have your mind made up about liver pate. Maybe you align with every single one of my friends, who upon me forcing them to try a bite, manage only to respond with something like, “Eh, not my thing,” or “I can see how this is ‘good,’ but I just don’t like it,” or even the ever-eloquent “Ewwww!” If you fall somewhere within that range of reactions, not to worry! There is time yet to convert you.
But as much as I want to win over those of you who are still reluctant to eat (and maybe actually enjoy) this, I feel a little guilty doing it. I’m sad to say I am just as “American” as my peers when it comes to being squeamish about eating any sort of protein that’s not a hunk of steak or a chicken nugget. How is it that I need to have a glass of wine and flattery from my friends in order to try out an order of breaded and fried tripe, but I’m okay with eating the occasional fast-food hamburger that’s the product of more appalling processes and chemicals than I can wrap my head around? What can I say, my food tastes are a work in progress.
Fortunately, though liver is something that I would normally do the polite, “no, thank you” to, I have the good grace of a mom who knows better. When she started making this recipe of pate, everyone in my family—even my father with the weird food tastes who previously gawked at the mention of it—was spooning it onto crisped toasts. Granted, I’m not saying that if you make this it will convert even the most stubborn. See paragraph #1 if you need a reminder of how my friends received this.
But the point is, if you’re on the edge of trying this or if you’d like to expand your horizons a little bit outside the usual hot-dog-or-hamburger conception of meat, give this recipe a try. The livers are soaked in milk, which supposedly rounds out any strong flavors—or something like that. After that, the livers are sauteed with a good amount of fat, onions and some aromatics. A good bit of Cognac helps things along, of course. This mixture is then pureed with some cold butter chunks, which along with giving that always-lovely taste, make the pate silky-smooth and buttery (for lack of a better word).
After they set in the fridge, the little tubs of pate are ready to be spread out onto any toasted and crunchy pieces of bread that you have. You could sprinkle some chopped pieces of parsley on top to garnish it, as the original recipe suggested, but to be honest with you, this pate is a measly off-gray color that doesn’t help its reputation very much at all. But oh well, we all can’t be star beauties now, can we? Liver may not be, or even sound, like the prettiest thing you’ve ever heard of or seen. But all I can say is go ahead and give it a try, and even if it doesn’t please you, keep on giving it a try every once in awhile anyway. I’d like to think most of our food tastes are works in progress, to a certain extent.
Chicken Liver Pâte
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
If you want a more classically French pate, substitute the four tablespoons of olive oil that are used in sauteeing the livers for butter.
1 pound fresh chicken livers
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Cognac
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Clean the livers by trimming them of any excess fat and connective tissue. Add them to a medium bowl with the milk and let soak for two hours. Drain well, and lightly pat the chicken livers with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
In a large saute skillet, melt the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the chicken livers, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are browned on the outside but still slightly pink on the inside, about 5 minutes. Add the Cognac and continue to cook it all together until most of the liquid has evaporated and the livers are cooked through, about another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves.
Once the liver mixture has cooled slightly, puree it through a food processor fitted with a steel blade until the mixture is completely homogeneous, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add in the cold chunks of butter and pulse until it is all blended and smooth, about 7 to 8 pulses, or so. Pour the pate into 6 4-ounce individual ramekins or small molds, or divide among larger ramekins, if you’d like. Smooth and even out the tops with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours. Serve with toasted, crusty bread.