Every nourishing diet should include plenty of organ meats from healthy pastured animals.
But it’s not always easy with the modern palate. If you didn’t grow up eating things like liver, kidneys, and other organ meats, the preparation and taste can be a little, well, off-putting. It takes time to get over the squeamish feeling of eating animal parts you’re not used to, but if you can you will be doing yourself a favor.
In this recipe I take pastured chicken livers from a local farm and add the delicious flavors of caramelized shallots, fresh thyme, sweet cognac, and plenty of pastured butter to make a smooth, rich, divine pâté.
What Makes Liver so Healthy?
To paraphrase from my “real-food bible” Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell, organ meats like liver are great (if not some of the best) sources of vitamins A and D, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, copper, zinc, and iron. If you don’t have this book in your library I strongly urge you to read it as soon as possible!
According to the study Nutritional Importance of Choline for Brain Development by Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., chicken liver also contains an abundance of choline. Choline is an essential nutrient responsible for proper brain development and function. Choline is an especially important nutrient while preparing for and during pregnancy, as choline supplies are greatly reduced during pregnancy and lactation. Developing fetuses use choline to grow organs and brain tissue.
Pro Tip — Soak Your Liver
When I get my hands on fresh liver I always immediately soak it in raw milk. I learned this trick from a colleague in San Francisco. He told me that in South America his family always did this and that it was said to remove impurities. I’m not sure of the science of this practice but when I soak my livers in raw milk they are always sweeter, milder, and more tender!
If you don’t have access to raw milk you can use pasteurized milk with a spoonful of plain yogurt mixed in.
Famous Chefs Who Love Liver
I just thought this would be fun to include!
There are some really wonderful famous chefs who adore liver in various forms.
- Julia Child – The matriarch of butter.
Here is an awesome old video of Julia Child talking about how to make pâté and terrine!
- Jacques Pépin – One of the most influential French chefs of our time.
- Alice Waters – My heroine and one of the most empowering chefs in the real-food movement.
These are some of Alice Waters’ recipes that have been reprinted in The New York Times. If you scroll through them you will find Alice’s recipe for Wild Mushroom Stuffing (Thanksgiving recipe idea) where she calls for chanterelle mushrooms and turkey or chicken liver as ingredients.
Serve this pâté with rustic sourdough butter crackers!
Cleaning the Livers
- Remove the livers from the milk soak (if applicable) and rinse them gently. Cut out any connective tissue or tough spots. Drain them well.
- Remover the butter from the refrigerator.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Once it's melted, remove it from the heat, angle the pan, and spoon off into a small cup the clear melted butter that rises to the top. Leave the milk solids and salty white butter behind in the pan. Reserve the clarified butter for later.
- Reheat the pan and add the diced shallots. Cook the shallots over medium heat until they start to caramelize.
- Add the cleaned livers and sauté them in the shallots for 3 minutes.
- Add the thyme and cognac, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover the pan with a lid for about 5 more minutes or until most of the cognac has evaporated and the livers are firm.
- Remove the pan from the heat and scoop its contents into a large bowl to cool.
- Once the livers have cooled to room temperature, add them to your food processor and puree them. Cut the rest of the butter into chunks and add them one at a time while the food processor is running.
- Once the puree is smooth and all the butter is incorporated you can spoon the pâté into small jars or rammekins. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar. I used 1/2 cup mason jars for easy storage and portioning.
- Spoon the clarified butter evenly over the top of each jar and garnish it with fresh thyme if desired.
- Refrigerate the jars until well chilled. They can be kept in the refrigerator or once chilled they can be frozen for long-term storage.
- Remove a jar of pâté from the refrigerator at let it warm slightly before serving. Serve your pâté on toasted sourdough baguette or with my rustic sourdough crackers.
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