Easy chicken liver paté with Cognac

by Jeanne on February 14, 2007

in Main course - poultry, Recipes - gluten-free, Recipes - meat, Recipes - starters & light meals

Editedliverpateserved As I mentioned in my previous post, I was thrilled recently to find chicken livers in my local supermarket.  Yes, yes, I probably should get out more… but it's just that I am always looking for them on our weekly grocery shopping trip and virtually never find them.  This is pretty weird – mainly because I grew up in a country where there are tons of frozen chicken livers in every single supermarket (although I guess you could explain their popularity as a cheap source of protein in a developing country).  It's also weird because the do sell them in other branches of the self-same supermarkets that I look in. Christina says she can get them at Tesco out her way (erm… west London?!) and I used to visit a friend in Wood Green and stock up on them at the local Sainsbury's.  So maybe you can argue that chicken livers are not a mainstream British food and only sell in areas where the population is suitably diverse?  But for heaven's sake, I live in E16!  It doesn't get much more multicultural than my suburb!!  Maybe somebody from Tesco or Sainsbury's reads this and can explain the lack of livers in my area…

Anyway, as luck would have it, I found my livers in Sainsbury's and knew immediately that my litle lunch party was going to have chicken liver paté for a starter.  When I was a student I used to make a version of chicken liver paté as my favourite party trick – I thought I was frightfully sophisticated!  The version I used to make was easy and fun but not really what I would these days call a paté.  It was chicken livers fried together with finely diced onion and garlic, chopped and mashed with a tube of liver spread (really!) and a tub of cream cheese.  Plus of course a generous glug of sherry and some black pepper!  It was the perfect snack for a classy student party as the ingredients were cheap plus you usually had some of them on hand (I'm thinking of Sedgwick's Old Brown Sherry in particular, without which no student party was complete!) and you didn't need a food processor – the rustic texture was part of the appeal. 

But I am no longer a student and I do now own a food processor (well, a Braun wand mixer and attachments!), plus I thought the rest of my lunch menu called for something a little more sophisticated and smooth.  If only I had remembered earlier, I would have used the Heston Blumenthal "posh paté" recipe that I clipped from the Sunday Times magazine, which intriguingly contains about three different types of alcohol.  But as it happened, I only remembered about this later and the recipe I ended up using was the ever-reliable Delia's recipe for chicken liver and cognac pate.  Clearly, I still retain something of a student mentality – no such thing as cognac in my house, but we did have some brandy, and I reckoned once you've smooshed it together with chicken liver, who will ever know the difference??  The recipe says it serves 6, but as a starter it fed five with masses left over for lunch the next day, so I would say the richness means it could probably stretch to a starter for eight with salad and bread.  Mine was served with dark German multigrain bread and my rocket, pear, fennel and pomegranate salad.  The paté itself was smooth and very buttery and the salad's crisp texture and sweet flavours were a perfect match – definitely a starter to remember.

Editedliverpatebowl CHICKEN LIVER PATE WITH COGNAC Serves 6+

Ingredients

8 oz (225 g) chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed
2 tablespoons Cognac (or brandy)
8 oz (225 g) butter
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
¼ level teaspoon ground mace
1 level teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 6 small sprigs to garnish
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Method

Melt about 25g of the butter in a medium-sized, heavy-based frying pan and fry the chicken livers over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Keep them on the move, turning them over quite frequently.  Check for doneness by cutting into the largest pieces – you want them pink on the inside but not bloody.  Remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer them to a blender or food processor.

Melt 150 g of the remaining butter in the same pan and add this to the blender or food processor. Then pour the Cognac on to the juices left in the frying pan, making sure you scrape up all the flavourful bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and pour that over the livers. Add the mustard, mace, thyme and garlic, season well with salt and freshly milled black pepper, and blend until you have a smooth, velvety purée.

Divide the paté between three large individual or six small ramekins/pots.  Melt the remaining 50g of butter and pour a little over each remakin to seal.  Press a sprig of thyme on top and leave them to get cold before covering with clingfilm and refrigerating until needed.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Pille February 14, 2007 at 8:12 pm

This looks delicious, Jeanne! I make a very simple chicken liver and cognac pate every now and then, but I’ve never added any spices. I will next time:)

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Andrew February 14, 2007 at 8:29 pm

That’s spooky – I brought some chicken livers yesterday to make some pate with! Great minds etc

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ejm February 14, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Sounds and looks delicious, Jeanne!
Like you, we have discovered that cognac isn’t absolutely essential in chicken liver pate. At Christmas time, my husband used rye whisky – he reckons that as long as the liquor has seen some oak aging, it should work. And I can’t say that I noticed any difference. The pate was as good as ever.
-Elizabeth
P.S. Our local supermarket butcher had beautiful looking chicken livers today. Yay! I can’t WAIT for dinner!

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elarael February 15, 2007 at 12:20 am

Hi ~ Before I became a vegetarian I made a chicken liver pate one Sunday afternoon while the family was watching a Sunday movie on TV. All very cozy. We were watching the one about the wildlife researcher who goes to remote Alaska to record how the huge wolf population survived on frozen tundra without any other visible wildlife to eat. Turns out they survived luxuriously on the even more prolific mouse population. I’m going somewhere with this, stick with me!
I could watch the movie from the kitchen so I got up to make a recipe for chicken liver pate for us to enjoy as a snack during the movie. This was my first time making it and was doing it from memory of a very simple recipe I’d read earlier. The only thing was, I’d neglected to note sufficiently that you must be very careful not to puree the livers for too long or they develop an incredibly gluey and completely disgusting flavor. I was quietly discovering this for myself in the kitchen just as the movie came to the part where the wolf researcher decided to see if he could actually survive on only mice as well as the wolves were doing so we saw him trying out all of these gourmet mouse preparations cooked on his bunsen burner inside the tent. Well, I was just bringing the spoon of over-processed (aiming for unctuous creamyness) chicken livers to my mouth as the guy in the movie tasted his first attempt at mouse stew and it was this incredibly gooey, lumpy (mouse bodies!) brown mass that looked exactly as revolting as my hideous chicken liver pate tasted! I tossed the whole batch after gagging for about 5 mins., my poor parents and sisters wondering WHAT I was up to and eyeing the bowl in the kitchen very warily. I think we ended up with cheese and crackers that afternoon instead and I stopped eating red meat the next summer :P ha ha

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ilva February 15, 2007 at 6:55 am

It sounds great, I have been thinking about making some chicken liver paté for ages and now you may have given me decisive the impetus, thanks!

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Jeanne February 15, 2007 at 11:10 am

Hi Pille
I can highly recommend the added spices – particularly the fresh thyme! And I have to say, it makes for a very pretty garnish ;-)
Hi Andrew
Oooooh spooky [cue Twilight Zone music]! I find it quite interesting that there is often synchronicity in the blogosphere – I posted swordfish steaks in the same week as at least two other bloggers, and that’s just one of many coincidences. Lucky you – although it rains in Henley, at least you can get chicken livers easily… ;-)
Hi Elizabeth
Yup – the type of booze is not mission critical, especially when surrounded with all the other strident flavours. I like your husband’s theory, which would also cover the Old Brown Sherry I used to use as a student, which has spent time in barrels too. The nicest brandy I have had in a while was a Sandeman’s brandy that was matured in port barrels – I think that would be a fab, affordable substitute for cognac. And bon appetit for your chicken-liver dinner!
Hi Elarael
LOL!! I have seen the programme about the wolves that you refer to – fascinating! But yes, over-processing the livers is a bad idea and yes, I can see how a mouthful of that plus the mouse-stew image might be a life-changing event :o)
Hi Ilva
This pate is a lot of tasty reward for very little work, and if you make smaller remakins and seal each one with butter it lasts in the fridge for quite a few days too, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving ;-) Buon appetito!

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Ros February 15, 2007 at 5:49 pm

It is weird that you can’t get the livers you want in your area. But then again, I find that the places with the biggest ranges of exciting foods are the rich foodie areas, which doesn’t often mean multicultural. Some of the most exciting stuff I found in supermarkets was from the Morrisons in Pinner in N London – not exactly a multicultural area but definitely well off!
I totally love chicken liver pate, especially with cognac. I haven’t tried using spices like you have. It sounds great!

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Susan from Food "Blogga" February 15, 2007 at 11:40 pm

This was a learning experience for me, as I’ve never eaten or made chicken livers. Of course I am a vegetarian, so that could have something to do with it.;) I can still relate to your excitment about the supermarket trips though. It’s all about the simple pleasures….

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Christina February 16, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Mmmm, yum!

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Lorissa February 18, 2007 at 1:42 am

I’m not a pate eater, but I do love that photo!

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Charlotte February 18, 2007 at 10:04 pm

I just came across your blog via the Three R’s, and I am looking forward to having a good look around. I just wanted to congratulate you on a fabulous blog name. As an expat South African in Germany, it kind of makes me homesick, but it also makes me happy!

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Scott at Real Epicurean February 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm

I would be thrilled too – I’ve not seen chicken livers in any shops near me, and my wife keeps bugging me to find her some.
Your pate seems like a great use of them!

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Clifford August 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm

In still a student and do not own a food processor; I appreciate the reference to the bastardized pate dish from your student years. I have never seen tubed liver spread in the stores here in the states, but then Ive never looked for it-wish me luck.

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Emma September 14, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Hi, I am just about to make the pate, thank you so much for the pointer on where to actually buy the livers! Nice big pack from Sainsburys for 99p. Bargain! I’ll let you know how i get on x

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Catherine Thacker December 20, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I have wanted to make this for ages. Our local supermarket was selling chicken livers so I thought I would try it for Christmas. Only thing I don’t know is how long it will last refrigerated, and does anyone know if I can freeze it.
Look forward to hearing from someone soon.

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Marika Ujvari April 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I also add sauteed onions, a little cream, and omit the mustard.
What makes me mad though is all the fat stuff that is left on the liver, and usually hidden on the bottom. Plus, some of the light color liver looks like it is disintegrating. I ususally throw that out, since chicken liver is so inexpensive.

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