Chicken Liver Pâté: Julia vs. Modern

Whether you’ve actually tried it or not, you probably already have an opinion about chicken liver. People generally fall into one of two categories: they love it, or… they won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. I’m here to tell you that (a) liver isn’t scary, and (b) it can be damn tasty. Especially when mixed with bourbon!

Chicken liver mousse with challah

I was recently pouring over a restaurant menu in preparation for a meal out with a girlfriend. One item caught my eye: a charcuterie platter. Wild boar sopressata, venison pâté, duck prosciutto, and chicken liver mousse. Oh my god, yum. Unfortunately, a lot of cold cuts are off limits while pregnant. Liver, however, is fair game.

Then it occurred to me: I could totally make that at home.

Once the idea was planted, all I needed was the recipe. I came across two that sounded worth the effort, and at the end of the day it was my indecisiveness which lead to our 2013 pâté taste off.

The first is a classic chicken liver mousse. Provided by the great Julia Child, this is a simple, straightforward version featuring liver, shallots, and bourbon. (She recommends cognac, but alas, we were fresh out.)

The second is an amped up pâté with bacon, apples, and fresh sage. How could that be bad?!

Alright, game time.

Before you go thinking that you can’t recreate these at home, let me tell you right now: you can.

If you own a sauté pan and a food processor or blender, you’re golden. I’ll admit that cleaning the livers was the most labor intensive (and least enjoyable) task involved, but in explaining these recipes to John I likened it to cleaning chicken thighs: it’s not hard, but it is time consuming and arduous to make sure you remove all the fatty parts.

After cleaning the livers, pat them dry, place them in a large mixing bowl and cover with milk. I let these sit, covered in the refrigerator, for at least two hours. This process gives the liver a much milder flavor (which a lot of people appreciate).

First up? Julia’s recipe. And it’s crazy simple.

Sauté shallots and liver, turning once, in butter for 2 to 3 minutes.

Sautéing chicken livers

Sautéing chicken livers2

Combine liver, reduced bourbon (or cognac), cream and herbs in a blender or food processor.

In food processor2

Mix in a little melted butter, then pour into ramekins or jars, cover with plastic wrap (or add optional cognac gelée or clarified butter) and cool.

Chicken liver mousse5

Seriously, it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The more modern pâté follows the same guidelines. Sauté a few ingredients in a pan (bacon, shallots, garlic, apples).




Add the livers and cook until rosy on the inside, the same 2 to 3 minutes as before.

Chicken livers

Chicken livers2

Pour everything into a food processor, then add reduced bourbon and softened butter. Pulse until smooth.

In food processor2

Cover, refrigerate, devour.

Covered mousse

Best way to pair these? With a giant loaf of raisin challah. Trust me, the sweet and savory combo is perfect.

Chicken liver mousse with challah2

These are so, so good, guys. You don’t even know.

At the end of the day, we couldn’t pick a clear winner. Both John and I went back-and-forth about which pâté was better (a good problem to have, mind you). My recommendation? Make both varieties and share them with friends and family. After all, there’s no greater way to show you care than through food.

Unrelated, but noteworthy: this is also an extremely budget-friendly meal. One pound of organic, free range chicken livers will only set you back about $2-3. Win!

4 comments to Chicken Liver Pâté: Julia vs. Modern

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