Not sure if you’ve had or even like pate? If you’ve had a Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) chances are you’ve eaten this delicious spread. Typically made of liver, it’s combined with fresh herbs and spices and then whipped into a creamy spreadable paste. Yes, it makes an amazing condiment for sandwiches (Check out the recipe for Grilled Pork Sandwich) but more often I like to serve it as a party appetizer with crusty French bread, crackers or a vegetable platter.
A few notes on the recipe
I use chicken livers in this recipe because it’s readily available at my local grocery store. Feel free to use duck or goose (if you can find it) pork, beef liver or a combination. Keep in mind pork or beef liver is denser and will change the consistency of the pate. You can adjust by adding more butter or cream.
Livers can be quite strong-smelling and gamey. The trick to toning down the smell is in the preparation. Be sure to rinse the livers with water several times to wash away the blood and soaking liquid. Also, don’t skip the step where we soak the livers in milk. This trick really helps to reduce the gameness of the liver. The longer you soak in milk the mellower it makes the livers. I like to soak for 1-2 hours if possible but a minimum of 30 minutes. I’ve read that using milk with higher fat content helps too. I always have low fat milk at home and so that’s what I use.
Be sure to trim the livers of fat, connective tissues and blood spots. These bits are stringy (and kinda scary) and we don’t want them in our pate.
Regarding the wine, I love Madeira but you can substitute with any sweet wine or alcohol like Brandy. Again, I use what I have available but choose something sweet and aromatic. Another thing we must not skip is the fresh herbs–I use tarragon and thyme but will vary the herbs depending on the season. Rosemary is nice but use half the amount as it’s pretty strong. During the summertime, I use basil, chives, cilantro, or dill. They all work really well so use the herbs you enjoy.
You can vary the processing time of the liver depending on the texture you’d like. If you prefer a more rustic texture where you can see bits of the liver, pulse in the food processor for 20-35 seconds. For a smoother more whipped pate, pulse for 1-2 minutes. The pate will seem a bit loose after processing, like a thin pudding, but will set up after it’s refrigerated.
Remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. Pate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you want to make a big batch, you can freeze for up to 3 months.
1 1/2 lbs chicken livers
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
8 small shallots
4 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp Madeira wine
2 Tbsp half and half
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh tarragon
6 springs fresh thyme
Rinse livers in cool water several times and drain well. Cut off fat, connective tissues and any blood spots and discard. Cut liver into thin slices. Soak livers in milk for at least 30 minutes.
Finely dice garlic and shallots and set aside. Finely chop fresh herbs and set aside.
Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large sauté pan over Medium High heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer livers to the pan using a slotted spoon and leave the milk behind. Cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally so livers brown evenly. Reduce heat to Low. Add the wine, half and half, salt, nutmeg and black pepper. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat, add the fresh herbs and combine. Remove from stove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Put cooled livers (along with any liquid) plus 2 Tbsp of butter into a food processor. Pulse until smooth, approximately 1-2 minutes.
Spoon pate into mini loaf pans or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours.
Serve with crusty bread, crackers or veggie plate.
Yields: 2 mini loaves, approximately 3 1/2″ X 6″