It seems like carnivorous people fall into two camps when it comes to chicken liver—they either love it or they hate it. But chicken liver is used in more cuisines than just French, serving as a testament to its deliciousness and wide-reaching capacities in my opinion. Personally, the Ashkenazi (Jews of Eastern European descent) portion of my taste bud palate has been enjoying my grandma’s chopped chicken liver appetizer for nearly a quarter century and I’ve never figured out why liver gets such a bad rap or how anyone could fall into that latter camp. Sure, it’s not the prettiest of dishes, but beige has never been anyone’s color. Or maybe it’s the texture? I suppose smooth meat might be a deal-breaker for some. If you’re willing to overlook these potential weaknesses, chicken liver pâté is truly a hidden gem, a highly underrated delicacy, I promise.
I recently ate some amazing chicken liver pâté at Sitka and Spruce, served on crunchy bread topped with sautéed mushrooms and, my favorite: a soft-boiled egg. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I hardly ever cook meat for myself but it inspired me to revisit a dish that is surprisingly inexpensive and simple to make, yet tastes gourmet and special.
Typically, Jewish versions of chicken liver spreads don’t contain any butter and use hard-boiled eggs to create that creamy consistency while maintaining kosher standards of separating meat and dairy. The pâté I made strayed far from these laws and had brandy and butter and it was totally rich and heavenly, but there are many ways to achieve similar goals. I got the chicken liver at Don and Joe’s Meats in Pike Place Market, trimmed and ready to go. If your hesitation in consuming chicken livers stems from having to deal with preparing them—I get it. The packaging of meat generally discourages me too, but it was way less weird using livers from a butcher shop as opposed to the ones that sit on a shelf for who-knows-how-long at your Quality-Safe-Joe’s mega grocery store.
Once I made the chicken liver pâté (recipe below), I started thinking of more ways to incorporate it into meals even though it definitely stands on its own with the help of crackers. I love bánh mì and discovered that chicken liver pâté, due in large part to French influence, is commonly found in these popular Vietnamese sandwiches. I very loosely adapted this recipe, replacing pork with tofu and store-bought pâté with this homemade version to make a yummy lunch!
Chicken Liver Pâté
Makes 16 ounces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (1/4 tsp. dried)
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram, minced (1/4 tsp. dried)
½ teaspoon fresh sage, minced (1/4 tsp. dried)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
½ pound chicken livers, trimmed
1 tablespoon brandy (or bourbon would work well here)
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat then add the onions and garlic and cook until softened. Add the herbs, allspice, salt, pepper, and livers. Cook livers so that they are brown on the outside but remain pink on the inside; it takes about eight minutes. Stir in the brandy then remove from heat and puree mixture in a blender until smooth.
Refrigerate in a ramekin or any other appropriate vessel for a few days prior to using in order to get the most enhanced flavor.