Chicken Liver Pâté For Those Who Don’t Like Liver

Chickens are tough. Try eating a chicken’s foot, and you’ll really know what hardy means. One of the strongest bits of a chicken (in my entirely unscientific survey) is the liver, which is packed full of iron, i.e. what they make steel out of. Chickens are tough.

Rhode Island Red rooster
You give me any lip and I’ll bury you under the floor.

In a modern version of the ancient practice of eating someone or something to take on his, her, their or its qualities, I sometimes eat chicken livers, in an attempt to take on their iron levels. Liver tasting as it does, I eat it in the form of chicken liver pâté. And since the pâté in the shops is generally mostly made up of Things Which Are Not Chicken Livers, I have at last given in and started making my own. Bonus: it’s a lot cheaper than the commercial version and you can customize it to your taste. (Unless of course you are a vegetarian or vegan.)

You will need some chicken livers, about 400-500g (a pound-ish, imperialists); half an onion, chopped up small; two fat cloves of garlic, ditto; about 150g butter (say 5oz); 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 or more teaspoons of peppercorns (depending on how much you don’t like the taste of liver); plenty of herbs (I used rosemary and a bay leaf, but sage and thyme are also suitable); and 2 tablespoons brandy – optional, but it does help disguise the liver taste. Port would also be good.

You will also need a frying pan and (alas!) a blender. It always used to peeve me when people offered “super-simple” recipes that required equipment I didn’t have, so my apologies if this won’t work for you. A hand-mincer and much stirring may yet do the job.

Melt 1/3 of the butter in the frying pan, and fry the onion and garlic until the onion looks fairly cooked. The bay leaf can go in here too, if you’re using one. While the onion fried, I used the blender to turn a teaspoon of peppercorns into pepper-dust (like watching a snow-globe full of midges), debated whether to add more pepper, and decided not to. I am still not sure this was the right decision, but after all, one can always add more pepper when one eats it.

Fabergé salt and pepper grinder
Fabergé pepper grinder: for your inner Cruella de Vil

Once the onion is cooked, you scoop it out of the pan (a slotted spoon is useful here) and put it aside, adding the livers to the pan in its place. Cook for about five minutes, until they look nice and brown. You can cut into a lobe to see if it’s cooked through: a bit pink in the middle is ok, but you don’t want it bleeding. (Helpful rule of life: if it’s bleeding, don’t eat it.)

When you are satisfied with the cookedness of the livers, plop them into the blender. Add the onion, being careful to remove the bay leaf first. Blend until no longer lumpy and then add the rest of the butter (goes in easier if it’s softened) and any herbs and spices you haven’t already added, along with the salt and the brandy (or port). Blend till smooth and creamy and then spoon into whatever container takes your fancy – bowls are nice for general presentation; jars are more practical if you’re not likely to eat it all at once.Mousse de canard au porto
Now, the traditional thing to do is to pour melted clarified butter over the top, and this is certainly of use if you are putting it away in ye olde cold stone pantry for some time. Personally, I don’t find a layer of yellowed fat on the top of my food to be very appetizing, so I leave that stage out. Chacun à son goût.

This is good in a sandwich with sliced tomatoes (with, of course, plenty of pepper) or spread on hot, hot toast – preferably Vogels. Crackers are another excellent form of pâté consumption,  though I generally like something more on top. Again, tomato is good, as are cucumber and sometimes a little tasty cheese.

Chicken Liver Pâté
Having written this, I feel I would like to plead for a more rational spelling of pâté, which just says “French was here.” Maybe not pate (that one is already taken, and eating the tops of people’s heads is frowned on, provident Fejee or not), but something. Partay? Putty? I remember from my brief career as a French student that the circumflex – on the â – often means there used to be an s in there, which English has usually kept. Pâté = paste. Would pâté de foie gras be as popular if it was advertised as “fat liver paste”? I think not.

Am I Cruella de Vil?

Not a question one often finds oneself asking. But when it first popped into my mind, I decided there was a case to answer, and promptly borrowed the book from the library to further investigate. The results were not as reassuring as I might have wished.

D23 Expo 2011 - 101 Dalmations movie Cruella De Vil costume (6075270321)Cruella wears fur. So do I. [Disclaimer: I don’t buy ‘new’ furs unless they’re from a humanely culled pest species; and I would never knowingly buy or wear the fur of an endangered animal.]

Cruella likes pepper. So do I.

I like ink, too, though I prefer to write with mine, not drink it.

Cruella is married – so am I.
She has no children – neither do I.
Her husband changed his name when they married – so did mine!

Cruella owns a cat. So do I (two, in fact).
Cruella feels the cold. So do I.

In fact, I am feeling distinctly chilly as I look at this list. It’s not looking good!

Cruella De Vil

On the other hand, I didn’t marry a furrier – though back in my high school days a personality test suggested I was suited to being a graphologist or fur designer. (I didn’t know what the former meant, and the latter seemed a bit redundant: they just grow.)

Speaking of school days, while I have been a student at a fair number of schools in my time, I have never once been expelled – as far as I can remember, anyway. Nor do I dominate my husband and force him to eat oddly coloured food smothered in pepper.

I don’t customarily wear slinky satin dresses with ropes of jewels – probably because, unlike Cruella, I am not a fabulously rich society heiress from a notorious family. Well, I’m not a fabulously rich society heiress, anyway (cough). Nor do I own a flashy chauffeured car which “looks like a moving Zebra Crossing” – in fact, I don’t own a car at all; I never have.

HMS Kildangan IWM Q 043387
If Cruella de Vil owned a yacht…

My hair isn’t black and white either; it is a very dark brown with occasional silver hairs if I hunt carefully. Nor have I chosen to decorate my home in red and green marble (how revolting). Possibly the marbled interior of her home, when considered in the dim and rainy light of the English climate, goes a long way towards explaining why Cruella feels the cold so much…

Cruella’s cat is Persian, kept only because it’s valuable – she drowns all its kittens. My cats (“the Cat” and “the Kitten”), aren’t worth anything. Unless perhaps they get hit by a car and found by Claire Third (warning, cat lovers may find article/images distressing). Of the four kittens the Cat produced in her youth, three were re-homed and we kept the fourth. Most days the Cat seems to think drowning him would have been preferable, but that’s another story.

And for the record, I don’t want to make a coat out of Dalmatian puppies, not even “for spring wear, over a black suit.” I like puppy skins best when containing puppies.

Dalmatian puppy, three weeks-7So what do you think? Am I Cruella de Vil, or amn’t I?