Liver. You either love it or hate it; there’s rarely an in-between. I grew up with parents who liked liver and onions so it was an occasional dinner of my youth and one I’ve always enjoyed. And it wasn’t just liver and onions we ate, but liverwurst and (American) braunschweiger, too. Ahh, what was better than a braunschweiger sandwich with raw onion slices piled onto Wonder bread?
When I started cooking on my own, chicken livers became my new favorite. They’re small and tender and cook pretty quickly. I love them sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I totally lucked out that my husband likes liver too, so it’s an occasional treat for us. I say occasionally because liver is high in cholesterol, although it’s also a good source of iron and B vitamins. I’ve told you before I”m a big believer in enjoying a variety of foods and not overindulging in any of them. Variety is the spice of life, no?
Over the holidays it’s become a tradition for me to make chicken liver pate’. Smooth, creamy and packed with flavor, and yet I’m still pleasantly surprised at how many people actually enjoy it. It’s typically one of the first things to disappear from the array of appetizers.
After making it for so many years, I’ve discovered just how easy and flexible making liver pate’ can be. Sometimes I add a little bourbon. Sometimes I add a bit of heavy cream. Sometimes I change up the spices and herbs. The basic idea here is chicken livers cooked with garlic, onions or shallots, a bit of spices and/or herbs and a touch of water and/or liquid. Puree it all up, chill until firm and you have liver pate’.
As an interesting gardening side note, the fresh sage pictured here was all harvested from one of my sage plants that was buried under snow in the middle of December. Amazing, right?
Chicken Liver Pate with Bourbon Recipe
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken livers, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large skillet. When it starts to foam, add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add livers, herbs, spices and water and stir well.
Cook at a simmer for about 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until the livers are cooked through.
Add bourbon, stir well to incorporate and then remove from heat.
Add heavy cream and stir well. Let cool at least 5 minutes.
Place the entire mixture into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick, add just a bit more water or cream.
Smooth the pate’ into a dish or ramekins and chill. I love this best when it’s made a day ahead of time…it’ gives the flavors time to meld. I use ramekins and this recipe makes about 3. It will also freeze well for a week or two, which I discovered by necessity one year when I made a double batch of it. Serve with a selection of crackers and/or small appetizer breads, such as rye and pumpernickel.
Liver pate’ may not make a gorgeous picture to everyone, but to me and those who love it, it’s a beautiful thing.
If you want to make a particularly nice presentation, line your ramekins in plastic wrap and place some fresh sage or thyme leaves in the bottom of the dish.
Spoon the pate’ in over the leaves and then refrigerate. Before serving, pull the whole ramekin of pate’ out by pulling the plastic wrap out of the ramekin and then invert on a dish before serving. You’ll end up with a small batch of pate’ with a beautiful presentation of herbs on the top. Not necessary but it makes things pretty, if you so desire.
Never be afraid to try new things and never, ever, ever, be afraid to play around with your food.
Liver. Do you love it or despise it? I’d love to hear your comments. Here’s to a fabulous, amazing, delicious New Year. Cheers.