This Changes Everything: Chicken Liver Pâté

Sarah McColl
Editor in Chief

Photo credit: Stock Food

I wish I could remember the occasion that prompted me to make chicken liver pâté the very first time. It was likely some holiday party, one that required guests to bring a bottle or platter that seemed fancy and festive.

And here’s what I do remember: I was, shall we say, struggling, financially. Like, eating packages of dehydrated noodles for lunch every day at my first job out of college and buying single-ply toilet paper. I could take $20 and turn it into a week’s worth of meals. 

So, comparatively, the chicken liver pâté was a bit of a splurge. I bought a $6 bottle of white wine, a package of button mushrooms, and a pint-sized container of red chicken livers. They cost $1.29. (The most expensive thing about this chicken liver pâté, which is more like a mousse, is the food processor it requires to whip everything into creamy submission.) I stood on the black-and-white tiled floor in the kitchen of my apartment and, after sautéing the mushrooms and livers with sprigs of fresh thyme and pulsing the whole mess with lots and lots of butter, dragged my finger along the inside rim of the bowl. It was a revelation: earthy, darkly complex, and full-stop luxurious.

It has since become my default trick for holiday parties, hostess gifts, and Yankee swaps alike. Make this pâté when you’d like to give the appearance of elegance, but you’re this close to hitting red on your Visa bill. It keeps for two weeks in the fridge, meaning by the time you polish it off, you could be feeling flush again. 

Chicken Liver Pâté
Serves 12
Adapted from Martha Stewart

15 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ pound chicken livers, rinsed and drained
½ pound white mushrooms, sliced
⅓ cup chopped scallions, white and pale-green parts only (about 3 scallions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
Kosher salt
⅓ cup white wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add livers, mushrooms, scallions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until livers are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add wine and thyme. Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook until mushrooms are very soft and wine is reduced, about 10 minutes. Let mixture cool completely.

Process mixture and remaining 12 tablespoons butter in a food processor until smooth. Season with 1½ teaspoons salt. Transfer paté to serving dish and cover with plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.