When Life Gives You Liver, Make Pâté

We were probably a little too late letting you know we had organic chicken livers for Passover. Because we ended up with an extra 7 pounds of them. We’re thrifty. And it seems disrespectful to the chicken to just throw them out. So this has been a week of liver dishes.

The first day was a sauté with green and red peppers that was devoured over rice by a 7-year old with a crazy palate (favorite food: borscht) and not touched by a 4-year old whose rule is if it isn’t white or chocolate, it isn’t food (the rule has a strange subset where if something is both white and chocolate it is not food either). But we were most surprised at the reaction of the father of the house. (“What is this? Are you trying to trick me? I don’t eat liver.”) No amount of pleading could get the man to try the dish. “Just try it . . . you eat pâté, right.” “Of course I eat pâté, I told you I don’t eat liver.” “But . . . well, nevermind.”

And thus we came to try to make our first pâté. Armed with a recipe from Jacques Pepin, we set forth into the culinary wilderness. Second biggest surprise? It took 15 minutes to make (not including time in fridge). Biggest surprise? Served a schmear on a slice of toasted day-old baguette, our four-year old pronounced it “awesome.”

This recipe makes a creamy, liverwurst-style pate spread – note you’ll need a food processor. We also made a ‘country-style’ pâté that was baked . . . we’ll post about that later.

1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky (we used applejack!)
Freshly ground pepper
Toasted baguette slices, for serving


In a medium saucepan, combine the water, chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Don’t worry too much about how finely the onion or garlic is chopped because it is all going in the food processor anyway! Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. When it simmers, reduce the heat to low and cover the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside – about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Search for and discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor and process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac (applejack!), season with salt and pepper and again process until completely smooth. Taste as you go to see if you have the right amount of seasoning. Scrape the pâté into containers that contain the portion size you think you’ll use – it is hard to get this pate out of a container and have it look nice so consider using decorative ramekins to chill it. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s recipe in Food and Wine magazine

Greene GrapeWhen Life Gives You Liver, Make Pâté