Make Your Own Pate
Making you own chicken liver pate is relatively easy. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Chicken liver pate, with bread. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Last fall I bought 10 chickens that were raised and slaughtered by a neighbor, and with them came 10 sets of chicken livers which I stored in the back of the freezer. They joined a motley assortment of other chicken livers that I’d reserved, with no particular use in mind, but which I didn’t want to waste. My freezer is an ogre’s dream: a no-man’s-land of chicken necks, bones, gizzards, pork livers and pork belly, all awaiting transformation into something edible or useful: stock, for example, or if I am feeling ambitious, which I haven’t yet, a pork terrine or paté.
I didn’t want these chicken livers to sit there indefinitely, though. I asked a co-worker, who raises chickens, for ideas and she mentioned paté. I demurred at what I thought was an overly complicated undertaking, but after looking at recipes I found that making chicken liver paté is straightforward and takes very little time. Normally I would argue for substituting ingredients if you don’t have the ones called for in a recipe, but with this paté there are two ingredients you must have: brandy and all-spice. It’s those two in combination that give paté its characteristic taste.
After studying a number of recipes (Julia Child, the Gourmet cookbook, an online recipe from Emeril LaGasse), I stitched together one that appealed to me.
1 lb. chicken livers
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, divided into four tablespoons each. You will reserve four tablespoons for the end of cooking.
3 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I didn’t have this so I used 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary and added 1/2 tablespoon or so of chopped fresh parsley)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon all-spice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup brandy
A few tablespoons cream (optional)
First soak the livers in one cup milk. I’ve read different theories on why cooks do this; it’s been attributed to leaching out possible toxins or for reducing the slightly metallic liver flavor. I did it because in the cookbooks I own by the redoubtable Marcella Hazan she has numerous recipes in which she soaks or cooks meats in milk as a way to tenderize them, and imbue them with subtle flavor. Let them soak for at least an hour, and up to two hours. After two hours remove the livers and drain them well. Chop them into medium-sized pieces.
In a large skillet, melt four tablespoons butter. Add the shallots and cook until they begin to soften. Then add the garlic and stir until it releases its scent. Now add the livers, the thyme (or the herbs you are using), the bay leaves, salt and pepper and the brandy. Cook over medium-low heat until the brandy has all but evaporated. The livers should still be tender in the middle. If you want to add a dribble of cream, for taste and consistency of texture, you can do it here. Remove from heat and let the dish cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves from the sauce — you’re done with them. Transfer the livers and sauce to a food processor or blender. Add to the mixture the remaining four tablespoons butter and blend. Taste for seasoning, and add, if you wish, salt, pepper and a little more cream or butter.
If you have a terrine or mold you can put the paté in it. I did not, but I do have small ramekins so I divided the paté between three of them. Let chill in the refrigerator for four hours or more. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with crackers or good bread.
Nicola Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3211.