I started making paté while I was a university student, too broke to afford to buy some. It’s definitely an inexpensive dish to make. I used to use a blender; now I use a food processor.
I’ve been through a number of variations through the years. I started with chicken livers, ground pork, and butter. Over time, I ditched the ground pork, have sometimes substituted duck fat for butter, and have added other ingredients. Once I added curry. That worked. Once I tried to make one that tasted garlicky. Wasn’t able to succeed, but knew I’d never be able to succeed when I put a half-head of garlic in, couldn’t taste it, but started burping garlic a couple of hours later. Not something I’d recommend!
It slowly evolved so that, at its simplest, it’s 1 pound of chicken livers to 2/3 pound of butter and 1 medium onion, season to taste.
Here are the recipes in their current incarnation. The idea to add apples came from a Jamie Kennedy paté I had a number of years ago at his Wine Bar. I added Calvados after I saw a recipe using it on the web somewhere. The recipe with duck fat stems from me corrupting a Jacques Pepin recipe.
This is the basic recipe — you can add spices and herbs to it to do what you want. I’ve used basil, Italian herbs, green peppercorns, and even did it once with curry powder.
- 1/2 lb butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- about 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
- 2 apples peeled, cored, diced
- 2 oz calvados
- 1 lb chicken livers
Making paté takes time. Take the time to do it right: if you try to rush things, you’ll have too much moisture in the paté, and it will be too soft. In a small frying pan, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add the apples. Cook them slowly until most of the moisture is gone from them and they have carmelized on the outside. This will take about a half-hour or so.
While that’s happening, in a 10″ frying pan (cast iron’s really good for this) melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add the mushrooms. Cook them down until they’ve released all their water and become dark and meaty. Add the onion and sweat it. Add the calvados, and cook the liquid down until it’s almost all gone. Add the rest of the butter, and when the water in it has boiled away, add the chicken livers. Add the apples. Cook until the livers are pink inside, and remove from heat. When cooled, process in a food processor until smooth. Spoon the mixture into a plastic-lined loaf pan, cover with plastic laying directly on the paté (otherwise it oxidizes and turns gray). Refrigerate.
Stolen idea from Jacques Pepin, but I’m using chicken liver instead of duck (and most cleaned ducks these days don’t seem to come with the livers in them!)
- 1/2 lb duck fat
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 3/4 lb chicken livers
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the duck fat, and give it 15-20 minutes over a medium-low heat, until it starts to get a little bit of color to it. Add the shallots, and give them a minute. Then (slowly! you don’t want hot fat splashing) add the chicken livers. Cook until pink inside, then remove from heat. When cool, process in a food processor, and press through a sieve. Spoon into a plastic-lined loaf pan, or small jars if giving as a gift, or a crock.