the moveable feasts

Chicken Liver Pâte

with 13 comments

a light dinner

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.

add in the cold butter

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.

scoop out into portions to chill

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.

spread on some good bread

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.

Written by Amy

September 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm

13 Responses

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  1. You know what? I’m one of those awful people who wrinkles their nose at liver, I just can’t get on with it. My Mum makes what I’m told is an incredible pate but I just can’t quite get the flavour. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to like though…maybe one of these days I’ll man up and get involved!


    September 3, 2012 at 12:09 am

    • I definitely have a lot of things I’d “love to like.” Usually it just takes the right moment at the right time (like eating it in a different country, being with new people) to really change my mind. Hope you do try out your mom’s pate sometime!


      September 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm

  2. I’m not the sort of person who shies away from organ meat, but I have to admit that I’ve never been crazy about any of the pate I’ve had. There’s a cafe down the street that does breakfast sandwiches, and one involves pate on a croissant. Let’s just say that I’m not eager to have liver for breakfast again anytime soon.

    That said, you do make this pate sound good. I’d definitely be willing to give it a try. I think it’ll be a matter of finding the right occasion and rounding up my other adventurous, offal-loving friends. (I don’t really know why, but there are an unusual number of adventurous eaters among the grad students in my department.)


    September 3, 2012 at 7:43 am

    • Haha, lucky you for being surrounded by great food influences at your school! I’m not so fortunate around here. And yikes, I’m not sure I could handle liver as a part of my breakfast. And thinking about it now, it is something I have to be in a mood to eat. I do hope you give this a try, though.


      September 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  3. i made Pate before, but used duck fat in place of butter and oil. I think it would mellow the “livery” flavors out for those who have a hard time getting past the taste. i love pate.

    September 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    • I’ve never cooked with duck fat before at all, but I’d love to try this to see how it changes the flavors of the pate… thanks so much for sharing!


      September 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

  4. For all of those that shy away, there has to be at least one person who’s willing to dive in, right? PICK ME, that person is me! I have been reading a lot about organ meats recently, especially liver. Apparently liver is insanely good for you – lots of soluble vitamin A. (Read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and you’ll want to add liver to your weekly menu rotation). It’s funny though, this whole liver thing, I think it’s a generational thing; my mom grew up eating liver and onions at least once a week and here I am and I’ve never even tried it let alone made it. I have tried foie gras though and I like it, but it is soooo rich, so I imagine I might like your pate better. Can you equate the two at all? foie gras and pate? I’m a novice when it comes to all of this. Anyway sorry this comment is all over the place I’m just so excited. Now I need to practice asking for chicken livers…”ich mochte gern halb kilo pouletleber bitte”


    September 4, 2012 at 8:36 am

    • I actually just tried foie gras for the first time about a week ago! I liked it, but I agree with you on the rich thing. To me it was like butter…only different. Haha, Anyway I think pate is similar—it has a buttery texture and background, but definitely not as rich as foie gras. And I suppose liver pate has a more… “earthy” taste, I’d say. (Apparently I completely fail at describing things today.) But it has that distinctly livery taste that I think is most unattractive to people. I like it though, and I hope you get a chance to try a good version of it sometime!


      September 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm

  5. I ADORE chicken liver pate!!! I dont even soak in milk because I like the stronger taste – and I also top with pistachios and love eating rolled in raddichio with bits of caramelised fennel. Hows THAT for a mature taste?! So happy to have the time to read your blog again sweet friend. xox

    Em (Wine and Butter)

    September 14, 2012 at 1:53 am



    September 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm

  7. So glad you made this Amy! I’m always a little low on iron and have to eat these types of dishes out of necessity – this is one of the best Just as good as leverpostei!


    October 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm

  8. […] Chicken Liver Pâte ( […]

  9. […] with lemon curd and whipped cream with pomegranates scattered on top and I also made some chicken liver pate by mashing the steaming hot chicken liver mixture through a fine mesh sieve (!!!!!!!). But that […]

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