I was afraid of this recipe. There’s something about French food that makes lowbrow ingredients seem unreachably high end.
Or maybe just unreachably high end for a cook who loves spreadable offal, but who’s threatened, perhaps to an insane degree, by the word pâté. Just look at the shape of it and I think you will start to know what I mean. If soufflé had as many accents over its vowels I probably would have waited a hell of a lot longer to try to make it. (Crazy, right? I don’t know. Maybe a little. Words say things to me.)
But on the Bang-for-Your-Buck scale and the Couldn’t-Be-Easier-Scale, this recipe ranks high. Like, really high. This isn’t one of those fussy spreads that might be called “mousse” on a menu. It’s not the kind of spread that takes hours of coaxing into a shape, texture, and appearance that is so far removed from its original form that you might be tempted to scratch your head and ask, “So…wait. What is this again?”
No. This is liver, onions, garlic and herbs, lovingly cooked and roughly pureed into something totally delicious. Not thanks to any fancy cooking, but because all those things, all those ingredients, are totally delicious. And this isn’t fancy cooking. The most expensive ingredients are the fresh herbs, which I harvested out of an almost-rotten batch from my fridge. But it was fine!
This recipe is barely even elegant, despite its name. It’s not rich people food. It exists on the same register, for me, as the soups, curries, and stews that I can make for nothing and sate hungry crowds with. Warming, comforting, simple food. My favorite kind.
Until next time,
Rustic Chicken Liver Pâté
– 1/2 pound chicken livers, cleaned
– 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
– 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1/2 tbsp fresh sage
– 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
– 2 bay leaves
– 4-5 flat anchovy fillets
– Splash of sherry, cognac, or brandy
– 2 tbsp butter
– Olive oil
– Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onions, bay leaves, and thyme until onions soften and begin to brown, about five minutes.
Push onions to the sides of the pan, and turning the heat to high, melt two tablespoons of butter in the center of the pan. Add chicken livers, garlic, sage, and a splash of sherry.
Cook on high for three minutes, until livers are tender but still pink in the center. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, discarding the bay leaves. Add anchovy fillets and fresh ground pepper and purée the mixture until it reaches the consistency you like. I like mine not-quite silky smooth, with chunks of garlic and onion still intact. But that’s me. Test the pâté before adding any salt–seriously. The anchovies pack a punch. Transfer the pâté to a small ramekin, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours.
I like to serve this with baby gherkin pickles and radishes. Oh, and some toasted rye bread. But you’re free to use whatever kind of bread you like. I prefer rye because it takes me back to those great Jewish delis in L.A. where I first fell in love with this stuff.
One year ago: Smoked Salmon on Crispbread and Potato Pancakes