There are no rules about French pâtés. Pork, chicken, rabbit or duck. Breast, cheek, belly or tripe. Squelched in a baguette sandwich with a few “cornichons”, baked “en croûte” in a flaky pastry crust or delicately seared and served atop a succulent filet mignon. In a ploughman’s lunch bag or on a Michelin star table. Sometimes rough, sometimes a delicacy, pâté has seduced, seduces and will seduce generations of French families for decades to come. And for how many ways there are to eat it, you can find a way to make it.
If you have ever been curious about making pâté, but never knew where to start, this recipe is a nice introduction to this iconic, creative and boundless French craft. An art of yesteryear, which has traveled through time, never ceasing to inspire French chefs and home cooks alike. Jacques Pepin first shared this recipe in 1982 on “Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pepin”, the PBS TV Series that shed light on this newly immigrated French Chef who made his lifelong goal to introduce easy, unpretentious French dishes to the American public.
And this is indeed a surprisingly easy, quick and inexpensive recipe. The chicken livers can be intimidating at first, but again, in this recipe, they will simply be cooked on a pan in a quick and easy manner. If you get a chance, choose your chicken livers with a paler color – they are more delicate and tender. Also, even though the addition of cognac fits in the original recipe by Jacques Pépin, one can only admit that the French liquor can be hard to find or quite pricey outside of France. But you can easily substitute it for scotch whisky or even an ice-wine, which will play with sweeter and fruitier notes. Taking a little time to clarify your butter to form a sealing cap on top of the pâté will make a huge difference in preserving your pate (24h without a butter cap, 5 to 7 days with a butter cap, in the fridge.)
Last, but not least, as a snack or a fancy appetizer, you just can’t miss out on a few fresh baguette slices for serving.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed
- 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky
- Freshly ground pepper
- Baguette slices, for serving (Fresh or Toasted)
- To clarify the butter: In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Remove from the heat, and let the melted butter cool down to room temperature. Once cooled down, discard the milky-colored butter ( floating on top), keeping only the clarified butter. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and the cognac, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the other 3 tablespoons of butter, until incorporated and completely smooth.
- Scrape the pate into 5 or 6 small ramekins. Pour the clarified butter on top of each ramekin, covering the pate completely with a 2-3 mm layer of butter. Optional: you can also place a small branch of thyme or whole pink peppercorns in the butter, so they will chill into the cap.
- Refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.