I had to learn to like liver.
It fit perfectly the definition of “an acquired taste” that I came up with as a teenager: A food that tastes strange to you, but you keep wanting to taste it because there’s something compelling about its strangeness. Then, one day, you like it.
After I’d already learned to like liver, I had the chicken liver pâté at Le Pichet (their sister café, Café Presse, also has it). I realized it would be the perfect gateway food to liking liver. It’s whipped light and full of butter, flavorful but not so strong as straight-up liver is.
I got the basic version of the recipe I now use from my friend Tatiana, and then modified it after reading Julia Child and adjusting for the flavors I like.
To make this, you want to use livers from chickens raised organically and on pasture, since the liver acts as a filter, and since pasture-raised chickens will have livers (and eggs/fat/meats) full of important vitamins and good fatty acids. Organ meats from properly-raised animals are some of the most nutritious foods you can get. I get my livers at the U-District farmers market.
And if you’re a first-time liver-eater, use a lot of butter. Heck, even if you’re not, use a lot of butter.
The final product can be eaten straight, can accompany a salad, can be spread on toast, or can be served with vegetables like snap peas or spring carrots for dipping.
Chicken Liver Mousse or Pâté
- 1 lb chicken livers
- milk, about 1 cup
- 1-2 sweet spring onions
- a few leaves of sage
- a generous handful of thyme
- at least two sticks of butter
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1/3 cup alcohol like sherry or brandy or cognac
1. Soak the chicken livers in milk for an hour or so. This is to remove an edge of bitter or strong flavor from the liver. There is debate online about whether this works, but I like the flavor after doing so.
2. Drain the livers. Chop the onion. Cook very slowly on low heat in a lot of butter (about half a stick). Add a little salt and a few leaves of the thyme.
3. When the onion is completely clear, with a few edges starting to think about browning, turn the heat up, add more butter, and cook the livers. Sauté on all sides until browned, but still pink in the middle. Add the sage and thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the alcohol and stir. Let the alcohol bubble.
5. Pour all of this into a food processor with the cream and the other stick of butter (or more if you like). Process well; it should be very smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, but the result may be a little more chunky. You can press it through a fine sieve with a wooden spoon if it isn’t perfectly smooth.
6. Refrigerate it. The mixture will be fairly liquidy, but will get more solid in the fridge overnight. This is true for many a mousse; even chocolate mousse should be fairly liquidy when you put it in the fridge. But, for the love of all things delicious, don’t confuse this container with chocolate mousse. Especially if you’re trying to learn to love liver.
Serve with toasts, dipping vegetables, or salad.