October 14, 2016 lyukum

Chicken Liver Pâté | Terrine de Foies de Volaille

Chicken Liver Pate

Soak Them in Cold Starchy Water

This recipe is classic French/European recipe for chicken liver pate, except for the first step with soaking livers in starchy ice bath. Most recipes include soaking livers in milk. “It is often said that milk improves the taste, purges blood, lightens the color, or affects some other property of the meat.” (“Modernist Cuisine” Nathan Myhrvold, p. 147) Soaking lean proteins in cold water (or flavored liquids) mixed with starch is “velveting”, a technique used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking. I’ve heard about it first from my Japanese friend and then found more in Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.

“Prawns, fish, chicken and vegetables placed in plain or slightly salted water take up water. This is extremely desirable in some instances to make up for the water lost during the cooking. Prawns become plump almost visibly when placed in water, and when these are cooked, they actually become crunchy. Fish and chicken swell slightly, and remain tender when they are subsequently sautéed. Vegetables regain their original crispiness, fill out and straighten.”

“The [thin starchy] velvet coat protects the flavor and texture of the food when it is placed into hot oil or water.”

Overcooking livers is the most common mistake. It makes their texture dry and sandy. Soaking livers in cold starchy water makes it more difficult to overcook them and is a big help for beginners.

The rest of the recipe is basic, with well known steps you can find in many other recipes for chicken liver pate. Let’s talk about little details, that are often left out.

Choose Them Pale

I’ve been craving for chicken liver pate for the last few weeks and cooked it a number of times. Many of my guests had a chance to taste it on a slice of fresh French baguette. Some of them asked me the same question — why is it so pale? Because, the best tasting chicken livers are pale! In the U.S., we rarely have a chance to choose them — they are sold in closed white containers. But if you do have a choice, pick those that are pale.

Make Them Tipsy

Is adding alcohol critical for the chicken liver pate? No, it’s optional. But it does add some goodness to it, if the alcohol — brandy, cognac, whiskey, scotch, calvados, bourbon, port, sherry, etc. — is high quality.

Other Considerations

Leeks are my favorite choice for onions, but they can be substituted with any other kind of your choice. It is important to sauté them until completely soft and sweet. In case of regular onions, I’d suggest caramelizing them for extra sweetness.

The amount of butter is variable and can be adjusted to taste. More butter makes the texture more firm (when cold) and the taste more delicate (or diluted). Always go for the best butter you can afford.

Chicken Liver Pâté | Terrine de Foies de Volaille
Chicken Liver Pate
Print Recipe
Prep Time 8hours
Cook Time 5minutes
Passive Time 8hours
Servings 4 oz jars
Chicken Liver Pate
Print Recipe
Prep Time 8hours
Cook Time 5minutes
Passive Time 8hours
Servings 4 oz jars
Ingredients
Units:
for pate
for soaking chicken livers
Ingredients
Units:
for pate
for soaking chicken livers
Instructions
for soaking chicken livers
  1. In a big bowl, mix cold water, ice, starch, and salt. Add chicken livers, mix, and refrigerate overnight.
for pate
  1. Drain livers.
    Chicken livers
  2. Trim all connective tissues and blood vessels. Cut livers to equally sized pieces.
    Trimmed chicken livers
  3. Slice, wash, an drain leeks. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and sauté leeks on medium heat until soft and sweet. Peel and dice garlic, stir it in at the end of cooking leeks. Transfer to a blender jar.
    Leeks for flammkuchen
  4. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and sauté chicken livers on high heat. Season them with salt and pepper (and other spices if using them).
    Cooking chicken livers
  5. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until livers are cooked, but still soft and juicy inside with a little bit of pink juices when cut open. Flambé with scotch and transfer to a blender jar.
    Cooked chicken liver doneness
  6. Prepare clean jars and lids. Blend mixture in a blender until smooth for about 1 minute. Add cold cubed butter (to prevent overcooking) and blend on low speed for another 30 sec or just until completely emucified. Transfer the pate into the jars while it is still warm — it makes it easier to avoid air bubbles trapped in the pate. Fill the jars to the top and close the lids. Refrigerate pate until firm, for at least 2 hours, before serving.
    Chicken liver pate
  7. Serve with fresh crusty bread, preferably baguette, as a spread in a jar. It can also be served piped on sliced baguette and served as ready to eat appetizers.
    Culinary bag with piping tip
  8. In case of serving it piped on slices of bread, play with different toppings — fresh thyme, crushed pink peppercorns, gourmet finishing salts are among the most popular.
    Chicken Liver Pate
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Comments (4)

    • lyukum

      I think scallops need some clarification here… Their properties are the same — when placed in water, they absorb it (less of it, if they are not treated, of course). The question is do we want them to be “plumped” or not for our cooking purposes. Seared scallops are appreciated for their beautiful caramelization. (BTW, I’ve been trained to be able to do that even with treated scallops. It doesn’t make their off-flavor any better though.) By soaking scallops, we obviously not helping the Maillard reaction to occur. It is easier to reach temperatures above 285°F (140°C) with drier foods, right? But I can see how “plumping” not treated scallops can be good for steaming or smoking.

  1. Margo

    Thank you, Katya! I have never velvet anything before; will try.

    I think you propose a perfect combination of herbs and spices here.

    Also, I have never known of the desirability of pale livers; will keep in mind.

    • lyukum

      I actually haven’t paid any attention to the color of chicken livers at the beginning, because “Normal poultry livers range in color from tan or yellow to deep mahogany red. A yellow liver indicates a fattier liver. The color variation depends on what the bird ate last and has nothing to do with the age or health of the bird.” (USDA guidance) Than I started noticing how French chefs always prefer pale yellowish chicken livers to those that are reddish dark. They do taste better — no traces of bitterness, more mellow and pleasant. Chicken liver pate made with pale livers is sort of budget four gras 🙂

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