I really hate liver, or at least I thought I did. It's long been one of the only foods I didn't like. Something about the chalky texture and minerally flavor really turned me off. But I have this rule. I make myself try things I know I don't like from time to time with the hopes that 1) my tastes may have changed 2) it's just been prepared wrong all this time. Fennel is a great example of the former and I can now say that liver seems to fit in the second category.
Last summer I was hanging out at Radegast Hall Biergarten in Williamsburg (one of my favorite places for beer and meat in NYC) when my sense of adventure got the best of me, and I ordered the rabbit and chicken liver pâté. I'm sure the two Maßkrug of beer helped lubricate my gullet (and mind) for the fist bite, but upon slathering a liberal smear of pâté on my bread and taking a bite, I was overwhelmed with a feeling I'd never had before while eating liver: I didn't hate it! The second bite confirmed that it was in fact tasty, maybe even delicious?!
While cleaning out the freezer the other day, I uncovered a few frosty scraps of foie gras. Far too old to sear, and not enough to turn into a terrine by itself. Still, it felt like a waste to toss them out, so I decided to confront my liver aversion once and for all and make a pâté that could put an end to this long-standing cold war between liver and I. Rather than make a Pâté de Campagne, which is usually a mixture of meat and liver, I decided to go whole hog (or whole liver as it were) and make a pâté that was 100% liver.
We all know that foie gras doesn't really count as liver (more like a slab of savory butter), so I bought a pound of chicken livers to make the foundation for the pâté. The foie gras went in for creaminess and fat. In theory you should be able to use butter or duck fat and get similar results. I also wanted something to cover-up that liver flavor. Whether it's goat or lamb, there's no better way to cover up a funky meat than to add garlic and curry powder. Since I was going "Indian" with the spices, I also decided to throw in a little mango chutney for sweetness.
Lastly, since I wasn't going to be adding any pork, I needed a way to infuse a ton of umami into an organ that's not especially flavorful by itself. This came in the form of caramelized shallots, and my magic ingredient: kombu dashi powder. It's powdered kelp extract used for making Japanese soup stock, and is a way to instantly boost the flavor of just about anything without resorting to the use of MSG. You can find it at most Japanese groceries, but be sure to read the translated label as many of them contain MSG.
All this got blitzed in a blender until the mixture looked like a smoothie. After pan frying a little pancake of pâté liquid and deciding that the flavor was good to go, I strained it through a very fine mesh strainer to remove any bits that might ruin the texture. Then, I decided to steam it in a crock rather than bake it in a double boiler. My thought was that it would cook faster and more evenly while keeping the texture nice and smooth. I finished it off the traditional way, with a weight on top, and left it to chill in the fridge overnight. This eliminates any air bubbles and gives it a nice dense texture.
The result was a pâté that had the texture of cream cheese, the flavor of a good meaty curry, and a richness that was somewhere between cheese and butter. It struck a nice balance between sweet and savory and when spread on crostini, it made me realize that liver ain't all that bad after-all.
- 450 grams chicken livers
- 180 grams foie gras
- 1 tablespoon cultured unsalted butter
- ½ cup shallots minced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon kombu dashi powder
- 2 teaspoons garam masala (or curry powder)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds whole , toasted
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
- Prepare the chicken livers by soaking them in salt water for 2 days (you'll want to change the water a few times). This removes a lot of excess blood and will tame the flavor of the liver. The color should change from maroon to a mottled yellowish beige.
- Melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium low heat and add the shallots and garlic. Saute until they are very well caramelized (15-20 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down.
- Drain the livers, then add them to the work-bowl of a food processor, add the foie gras, shallots, kombu dashi powder, garam masala, toasted cumin seeds, and salt. Process for 5 minutes. The mixture should turn out silky smooth.
- Generously butter a terrine mold (I used a 2 quart Le Creuset with a lid) that's small enough to fit into a bigger pot. Pass the liver mixture through fine mesh sieve into the mold. This is going to take some time and patience as the mixture is very thick (I spent about 20 minutes doing this). If you're okay with the pâté being a little rustic you could skip this step. Cover the mold with a lid and place it on a steamer rack in a larger pot. Add water to the bigger pot, cover with a lid and bring it to a boil, turn down the heat to medium and steam until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the terrine reads 180 degrees F. The exact cooking time will depend on the type of mold you use, but mine took about 20 minutes.
- Once it's done, remove the lid and put down a layer of parchment paper, you need to find a flat surface that's close to the exact diameter of the inside of your vessel. The idea is to evenly distribute weight across the entire surface of the pâté. I used a small flat metal lid, then added about 5 pounds of weight on top. Put this setup in your fridge and leave it overnight.
- The next day, remove the weight, lid and paper and dip the bottom of the mold in hot water to release the pâté from the mold onto a plate. Serve with bread, crostini, crackers, or whatever else you want to use to bring the pâté to your mouth:-)
Welcome to the dark side...I mean the pasty liver side. I've always loved liver, and pate (next to foie gras) is the best ever way to have it. I'm so glad that your taste buds have grown up and now you find liver more palatable (at least the pate version).
I love pâté. This one looks mighty delicious. I love the addition of curry.
the indolent cook says
I don't mind liver, but I don't get excited about it either. Would still like to taste your version though!
This looks absolutely tempting! I love pâté!
S Charme It says
Sublime ricetta realizzata benissimo, ciao ♥
Foivi Geller says
It looks so delicious!! I love liver! The pate texture looks soooo smooth and creamy!
That looks rather wonderful, Marc! I, too, have never been a fan of liver. I just re-tried it a couple months ago with the hopes that my tastes had changed. No such luck. But yours looks so ultra luxurious that I may have to try again! :-p Although, I'm thinking my version wouldn't come out quite as fancy as yours. Can you just make me some and ship it to MI? That would be great, thanks! :-p
Anh Truong says
The pate looks divine. Was there a specific brand of guaram masala that you used?
Marc Matsumoto says
Thanks! I used a blend I made a while back for making Japanese curry, can't
remember the proportions, but it has cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, fennel,
cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, black cardamom, coriander, black pepper
I don't think I've ever tried pate before but you make me want to eat spoonfuls of it!
Beauitful! I hate liver too but love liverwurst and pate on my sandwich and crackers etc. What i keep on trying are olives hoping that one day i will like them 🙂 nice post!
I've never tried chicken livers prepared as such and with these flavorings. Usually I'll Just saute them...this looks exceptionally good and your photos are stunning.
I like your philosophy- I take the same approach to aversions, although I've never yet been able to tolerate raw squash. Liver is one of my squiffy foods- I like pate but haven't had been able to tolerate less seasoned chicken livers. With this encouragement, I'll persist!
Marc Matsumoto says
I'm not a huge fan of raw squash either, but if you slice it into
really thin ribbons and dress it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and
pepper it's not so bad. Almost makes it like a pickle.
enrisa marie says
Hello. Is liver pate ok for babies? Those first foods? It's soft, nutritious and delicious. But maybe sans garam masala or cumin for those delicate taste buds....
Marc Matsumoto says
I'm not a pediatrician so I'm not qualified to answer that, but I
don't see why it would be a problem:-)
I hate liver in general, chicken liver is the only one I can eat. To be honest I enjoy eating, so thank you very much for this recipe.
I love liver. I love pate. But I saw the photos of this a few days ago and I nearly died inside because of how delicious, creamy and awesome it looked. Pate is something I've never experimented with myself - looks like I'm going to have to give it a go, though!
I generally save the livers, duck and chicken, in a zip-lock bag and hope a recipe like this will come along. Hey, it finally did. So I won't end up throwing yet another old bag out. You are so clever, and right about liver needing a zap of something umami and spicy to help things along.
I hate liver too, except in pâté! I would be in hog heaven with this! quickly, tell me where you get your foie gras!
Wow, thanks for the recipe! I've been searching cuz' I never liked liver esp. its taste and weird texture...until one day I tasted the yummiest bahn mi sandwich in Saigon. The sandwich was so delicious...baguette spread with pate, slivers of ham & meat cuts, some sauce, coriander, pickles and chilli! Now I can try to remake the experience :-). Thanks!
What a great blog! I love the clean format, easy to follow recipes, and sharp pictures. Nice job!
"Pass the liver mixture through fine mesh sieve into the mold. This is
going to take some time and patience as the mixture is very thick (I
spent about 20 minutes doing this). If you’re okay with the pâté being a
little rustic you could skip this step."
Not sure how you went about this, but I do pâté and pass it through a drum sieve with a flat plastic dough scraper. If it is a little more liquid and you are running it through a chinois style conical strainer try using a small (1 or 2 oz) ladle to force the mixture through. If you bounce it quickly in the strainer it pushes pretty rapidly. When my chef showed me that trick I simultaneously felt like a nincompoop and like I had just discovered how to turn water into wine! 🙂
Sorry to break it to you, but powdered kelp has quite a bit of free glutamate in it. Same effect as MSG, both the good and the bad.
Got some fresh grass fed cow lever last week. First thing I had to do was make my version of liverwurst. Excellent. But I does get old fast. So Ive vacuum sealed some in mason jars to keep--the rest is in the freezer in 2 serving portions and should last us a year. I didn't realize that Bahn Mi sandwiches were originally made with liver pate until a little while ago. So I will make my next batch using this recipe but my liver. We;ll see how it goes, as beef liver is far stronger than chicken. Both are mighty tasty, though.. Now what to do with the entrails, as I'm not much for them. Or do you have a suggestion for eyeballs....I'm trying to use the whole nose to tail thing.
Marc Matsumoto says
JIWA, in japan the entails are all used in Yakiniku (grilled meat), but many countries use them for stews and such. The most important thing though is to make sure they are very clean (especially the bits of the digestive tract) or whatever you make will stink. In the US they typically use bleach on these parts, which is a shame because it makes everything taste like a swimming pool. As for the eyeballs, I've never thought about cooking with them from a mammal, but in Japan, when people simmer whole fish, the eyeballs are often a sought after part as the simmering renders all the collagen into gelatin. As much I try not to judge, I just can't do eyeballs.