Pâté, with its buttery mousse-like texture, it’s rich taste, and its cosmopolitan circumflex over the â, combine to make it a dish that appears far too difficult and luxurious to make at home. It may come as a surprise then to learn that despite its complex taste and ethereal texture, pâté is actually quite simple to make, requiring nothing more than a handful of easily attainable ingredients along with basic tools already found in almost any kitchen.
What is Pâté?
While often produced from chicken or goose liver, pâté is not relegated to poultry and can also be made from seafood, meats, or even vegetables. Highly seasoned, this mixture generally contains a combination of aromatics like onions, garlic, herbs, wine or brandy, and a generous amount of butter. Served cold or warm, molded or unmolded, silky smooth or chunky, pâté provides a blank canvas for the creative cook.
How to Make Liver Pâté
By far, one of the best ways to enjoy any liver, pâté boasts intense gamey flavors and unmistakable notes of iron. While it may be an acquired taste, it’s one worth developing. Like learning a new language or making your way through the interminable prose of an antiquated book, it’s well worth the effort. Follow along as we attempt to demystify the art of making fantastic liver pâté so you can enjoy the pleasures of this sumptuous dish at home any time the mood strikes!
Step One: Cleaning the Liver
Classic chicken liver is the perfect place for a rookie pâté maker to start. You can find these livers at any decent local market, and they’re always relatively cheap, setting you back no more than a few dollars a pound.
The first and by far the hardest step of creating pâté comes at the beginning. Offering the only real barrier to making this dish at home, is the slightly tricky process of cleaning the liver. Another reason we love to start with chicken liver instead of foie gras, is its low price point, allowing us to practice this somewhat grisly step with abandon, working out a solid technique without the fear of ruining a more expensive liver.
To achieve that silky mousse-like texture, cleaning the livers is not a step that can be bypassed or skipped. Using a sharp knife, kitchen shears, or even your hands, you need to remove the connective tissue between the lobes of the liver. Even for those who have never worked with liver before, you’ll be able to easily identify what needs to be removed. The lobes you’re trying to save are smooth and dark in color while the connective tissue will be significantly lighter, and fibrous and lumpy in texture. They may even be streaked with fat, which will help you identify them easily. Once the lobes are thoroughly cleaned, the rest of the process is a cinch and relatively tidy in comparison.
Step Two: Cooking the Liver
Start by cooking your ingredients in a pan to maximize the flavors in your dish. To further the luxurious quality of your pâté do all this in a generous amount of butter. As it slowly melts, begin the seasoning process adding in a big pinch of sea salt, some fresh cracked black pepper, and your herb of choice. We love the big hearty taste of rosemary and think it stands up particularly well to the bold flavor of liver. Some minced garlic, (two or three cloves ought to be enough), and some onion sliced thinly.
As the butter finishes melting, the flavor of the garlic and onions will begin to meld together, making your kitchen smell incredible.
Once the onions have softened and turned translucent add in your cleaned lobes of liver along with a splash of wine and balsamic vinegar. Give them time to brown thoroughly developing those deep caramelized notes of flavor, about three minutes on each side ought to be perfect. We want to retain a small amount of pink in the center, so don’t let the cooking process go too far. Turn off the heat and allow the whole thing to cool as the flavors intermingle and the liver begins to absorb the flavors of the wine, butter, and vinegar.
Step Three: Blitzing the Liver
Once the liver has had several moments to rest in the steaming wine and while everything’s still hot but no longer bubbling, transfer the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender using a spatula to get all the juices in as well. These are full of flavor and shouldn’t be forgotten or, heaven forbid, thrown out. Once it’s all in, blitz the entire thing until smooth, taking a moment to scrape the bottom, getting any pieces that may be lurking in the corners or around the blades. Blitz again until silky smooth, then transfer to a dish to chill.
Step Four: Chilling the Pâté
Pour the pâté into your ramekin or terrine. Once filled, spread a kitchen cloth onto your counter and bang the terrine gently but firmly onto the cloth to help the pâté settle down, and any air pockets work their way out of the dish. Cover tightly in plastic wrap, and chill. The longer you chill your pâté, the better it will taste. We prefer to let the entire thing rest overnight in the refrigerator, this gives the ingredients adequate time to meld and the flavor to develop. If you don’t have that kind of time, however, an hour in the refrigerator, or 30-45 minutes in the freezer, should chill the pâté thoroughly and allow you to slice for serving.
How to Serve and Eat Pâté
For an elegant and tasty first course, serve your pâté alongside a fresh baguette, sliced into rounds, brush them generously with olive oil and broil until you’ve achieved a lovely golden brown color and a crisp texture. Smear pâté onto sandwiches for an unexpected punch of flavor and a creamy addition to your regular lettuce and tomatoes. Or add them cubed to a cheese and charcuterie board. The perfect complement to a wide range of cheeses pâté will add complexity and richness. Delicious served any number of ways good pâté highlights and accentuates, making the gastronomic possibilities of this delicious dish virtually limitless!
Storing and Shelf Life: Can You Freeze Pâté?
Pâté -especially those that are from scratch- have a notoriously short shelf life. Best eaten one to two days after being made, they can be safely kept refrigerated no longer than seven or eight days. To extend this relatively short window of time, you can also freeze your pâtés. Portion into convenient amounts based on your needs and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag, being sure to squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing. Always make sure to date your pâté, due to its high-fat content, liver pâtés shouldn’t be kept much longer than three months in the freezer, or they will start to break down and that lovely mousse-like texture will be lost.
Armed with these tips of the trade, you now have a base recipe for pâté that can be applied to any ingredients you choose. Try making a vegetarian version by swapping out chicken livers for mushrooms, or go for the good stuff and make a classic French liver pâté out of foie gras. No matter what ingredients you end up using we’re certain you’re going to love the final result!