They say that the sign of a good cook is someone who can turn something that most people throw away into something wonderful – something people would pay $15-$20 to order.
In my experience there are really only two ways to accomplish this kind of transformation:
1) Actual skill
Guess which one I use?
But seriously, chicken liver pate is one of my favorite appetizers to order in restaurants, but most places really charge for it! I assumed that this meant it was hard to make. Not so much.
This was my first time ever making this stuff and the results were amazing – at least as good as versions I’ve had in restaurants.
1) Add chicken livers to a bowl with enough milk or buttermilk to cover them. Let marinate for about an hour (or longer).
2) Rinse livers well and flush a few times with cold water. Then cut off any tough white parts of the livers.
3) Add cleaned livers to a medium pot with onion, garlic, bay leaves, and white wine. Bring to a slight simmer.
4) Poach the livers in the wine until they are just cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.
5) Let cool.
6) Drain livers and add livers, onions and garlic to a food processor with softened butter and anchovies. Process until smooth.
7) Season with salt and pepper and spoon into ramekins.
8) Optionally, top each ramekin with some melted butter to form an airtight layer over the pate.
9) Refrigerate pate for at least 4 hours. You can also eat this right away, but I find it's better chilled.
10) Serve with toasted bread, capers, red onion, and fresh parsley.
The Liver Delivers
There are some cuts of meat that I’m pretty sure will always be cheap. I say pretty sure because flank steak used to be super-cheap and now it’s all trendy and stuff.
But chicken livers, I’m almost positive, will always be cheap. At least in America, people are weirded out with organs for some reason. In my experience, most people use them mainly for bait to catch fish!
But the French know what’s up. They’ve been using chicken liver for a very long time to make amazing pate.
The benefits of chicken livers are many. For starters, they are dirt cheap. A dollar a pound will fetch you some of the best chicken livers around. They also have a much more mild flavor and softer texture than beef liver, but they still have lots of savory (umami) flavor.
Even though they are mild, I recommend giving the livers a quick soak in milk before making the pate. This will flush out any bitter flavors that are in the livers and leave you with a really smooth flavor. While you could soak them overnight, an hour is enough to get the job done.
The Nasty Bits
Once the livers have soaked for a bit, rinse them off really well in cold water and then trim off any tendons or other tough pieces from the livers.
Some people might consider this gross, but that’s fine with me. That’ll keep prices on my pate ingredients way down!
Here’s my finished bowl of cleaned and ready to go livers.
Now it’s time to bring some flavor to the party. While you could cook these in simmering water, I decided to use white wine to give them some nice flavor.
Also, some onion, garlic, and bay leaves are very welcome.
Since we are just going to puree everything later, don’t worry about chopping up the onion perfectly or anything.
Just throw everything in a pot and add some white wine until it just covers everything.
Bring this to a very light simmer and then let the livers poach for about 10-15 minutes. Then kill the heat and let them sit until they are room temperature. That should be plenty of cooking to completely cook the livers through.
Here are my finished livers after the poaching.
I actually tried a little bite of liver at this point just to see what it tasted like and it was pretty good. A bit on the bland side by itself actually. We’ll fix that though.
Making the Pate
Besides the poached ingredients, there are two added things that are going to make this pate really delicious.
That strange ugly fish thing is an anchovy and trust me, you want it. Even if you don’t like anchovies, you’ll want them in this. You can’t even taste them but they just add more of a savory flavor to the finished pate.
There’s no rocket science to making the pate. Just add all the poached ingredients to a food processor plus the anchovies and butter and pulse it until everything is very smooth.
One note: Don’t add the poaching liquid or bay leaves to the pate. That would make it WAY to runny and the bay leaves would never process completely. So drain the livers before processing them!
Portioning the Pate
While you could just plop this stuff in a huge bowl and go at it with a spoon, I thought it was nicer to portion it out into more reasonable servings. After all, it’s pretty rich and unless you are serving 10 people (who all like chicken liver pate) you won’t eat all of this in one sitting.
So I spooned mine into a few smaller ramekins for easy storage.
More Butter Never Hurts
I once had a pate in a restaurant (can’t remember where) that was sealed with butter. I guess the idea is that the pate stores better if it’s in an airtight situation. Plus, more butter is always good.
So I decided to try that out and melted some butter and spooned it over my ramekins until it just covered the pate.
Then I covered these loosely with plastic wrap and stored them in the fridge for a few hours to solidify.
You could definitely serve the pate at room temperature as soon as you made it but I think it’s better chilled. It gives time for the flavors to blend a bit and also has a better consistency.
When you’re ready to serve this, just pop one of the ramekins out and dig in!
I like to serve this with lots of fun toppings: capers, parsley, red onion, etc.
The only required thing for serving though is really crusty toasted bread.
That’s the only way to do it!
I made three huge servings of chicken liver pate for around $8 if I had to guess. If I ordered this same amount of pate in a restaurant it would probably run me $50.
It’s hard to explain the flavor of this pate if you’ve never had it, but it’s soft and savory and just completely melts in your mouth.
It’s really not hard to make so if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a shot!