Most of us wouldn’t think of eating chicken liver if we had to think about it. It’s ingrained in childhood that liver is a food we’re supposed to hate, after all, along with broccoli and brussels sprouts. But oddly enough, then we go out and buy pate in the gourmet deli or greedily gobble it up when it’s served as an appetizer. It’s as if pureeing permits us to engage in a bit of denial, ensuring we don’t have to admit to ourselves what we’re eating, when its powerful flavor and texture (too strong for a meal, but just right for a starter) is so, as they say in the UK, “more-ish.”
Well, it’s time to get over squeamishness about organ meats, save a lot of money (liver is cheap), and make your own (it’s easy)–and feel very haute cuisine about the whole thing while you’re at it.
I always pick up a small container of chicken liver when we go out to get our birds from Pete and Jen. I particularly like the fact that they have organic liver, given as it is that we are talking about organ meats here. There’s no need to feel that I’m indulging because even pastured chicken liver is very economical.
And remember what mom told you, liver is good for you!
Well, my husband’s mom may have told him, but he and his dad still turns up their nose at the idea (though both will happily down foie gras, and see no inconsistency in their views I fear). So it’s up to me and my mother-in-law to do something about it. And the obvious recipe to try was a recipe from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking, being that it was a her birthday gift to me and all. (Minor digression: wouldn’t it be fun to go take a course at Allen’s Ballymaloe Cooking School someday?)
And it’s so easy to make: basically sautee a few ingredients, throw it in the food processor, saute a few more ingredients, throw it into the mix, puree, season, enjoy. Not bad.
Besides my mother-in-law’s visit being a great chance to enjoy this pate, our little kitchen foray was well-timed for October’s Monthly Mingle. This month it’s hosted by Art & Lemons and the theme is Russian appetizers, or “little plates” called Zakuski! I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else brings to the party.
Chicken Liver Pate from Darina Allen’s The Forgotten Skills of Cooking
- 8 ounces chicken livers
- 4T butter, divided
- 2T brandy
- 1T fresh thyme leaves
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- one small onion, sliced (optional)
- freshly ground pepper
- salt to taste
Wash the livers and remove any membranes or green-tinged bits. Melt 2T of the butter and saute the livers over low heat. Although there should be no pink, be careful not to overcook either or the livers could develop a crust. Pulse the livers a few times in the food processor.
Return the pan to the stove, and add the brandy. Deglaze the pan by using the liquid to scrape off bits sticking to the pan, while cooking off the alcohol. (We couldn’t figure out how to flame such a small quantity of brandy to cook off the alcohol and instead went to the next step when the pan went dry (which happened very quickly).) Be careful not to burn. Add the remaining butter, thyme, and garlic and saute briefly. Add to the food processor and pulse again.
Now add your sliced onions to the pan, and brown over low heat. Add to the mix in the food processor, and puree again until smooth. Taste and season, adding more butter if needed to smooth out the texture or more salt to bring out any muted flavors.
Serve with toasted brioche or country bread.
Note: I think there were some translation issues when this recipe was converted into American units–most notably, my mother-in-law took a double-take when we saw the recipe called for two sticks of butter. We decided this was meant to read 2 tablespoons and it turned out fine.
We made the variation with caramelized onions, but you can leave this out if you want. We found that the slightly sweet taste of the browned onions complemented the liver component quite well. We also found that it’s key to salt well to bring out the flavors–always true, but especially important to keep in mind here.
Darina Allen says this will keep 4-5 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to a month. (Eat immediately upon defrosting).