Chicken Liver Pâté

I'm not sure how many people actually make pâté at home. I think it seems like something you've got to buy at the store. But let me tell you, there's not much better than a bit of cool pâté and a glass of chilled rosé in summer. 

Pâté is surprisingly easy to make, and wonderful to just have around. In this version, red wine and beef stock are cooked down with red onions, garlic, and thyme into a garnet colored syrup of a sauce. The sauce and the livers are buzzed together in the food processor with, well, a lot of butter and the result is a luxurious, creamy, not-at-all liver-y, approachable pâté. 

When I say approachable and not liver-y, I say them in a good way. It seems that some people love that iron-flecked liver flavor. But, I don't. Actually, I hate it. That makes me wary to eat pâté that other people make, because I never know about that whole liver flavor thing. But, I love this recipe because it's smooth and balanced, with no overwhelming liver flavor whatsoever.

I topped my toasts with some cherries cooked with vinegar and sugar because the little guys are in season right this moment but, of course, you can roast any version of in season fruit to go with the pâté, or just use a touch of your favorite cheese-pairing jam. Naturally, you don't need any fruit at all. The pâté stands well on its own. 

Chicken Liver Pâté

Inspired by Chicken Livers with Red Wine, Smoky Bacon, and Cherries from Otam Yottolenghi

Makes 2-3 pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb chicken livers, fat trimmed and sinew removed
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp bacon fat, or olive oil if you have don't have bacon fat around
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and left whole but lightly crushed 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock (or chicken stock if unavailable, best quality)
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into tablespoons 

Instructions:

  1. Place the chicken livers in a bowl and pour over the milk. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. The next day, right before you begin the pate, take them out, rinse them well, and pat dry. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Place a large saute pan over high heat. Add the 2 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil. Season the livers evenly with 1.5 tsp salt and some black pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the livers. You don't want the pan to be overcrowded, so you might need to do this in two batches. Sear for about 3 minutes, turning once, so that both sides are browned. You want the insides to still be pink.
  3. Remove the livers from the pan, and remove the pan from the heat. Add the onions, along with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until soft. If you need more fat in the pan, add olive oil, 1 tablespoon or so. Add the thyme, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, and sugar and saute for 2-3 minutes, until the sugar has caramelized. Add the red wine and cook for 5-6 minutes, until reduced approximately by half. Don't jump the gun! Let it reduce enough. Pour in the beef stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to just a quarter of its original volume- you should have about 1/3 cup left in the pan. What's left should be shiny and the consistency of light cream. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside. Discard the onions and aromatics (or eat the onions, I did!). 
  4. Now you have to wait until the livers, red wine reduction, and butter are all approximately the same temperature. This creates a creamier pate. This should take 30 minutes to one hour. It's okay if they're not exactly the same temp; what matters is that the livers and reduction aren't boiling hot and the butter isn't ice cold.
  5. When everything has come to temperature, put the livers and jus in the food processor and blitz them together until well mixed. Then, while the food processor is running, add the butter tablespoon by tablespoon, waiting until each bit is incorporated before adding more. Taste for salt and pepper and add more if needed. 
  6. Transfer the mixture to jars and, if keeping for more than a week, top with some kind of fat- if you have ghee or clarified butter, melt that and pour on top. If not, you can use olive oil, melted bacon fat, pork lard, anything to seal the surface. The pâté stays fine in the refrigerator, covered in fat, for at least 2 weeks, and possibly more.