Cork and Knife

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Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy

This pate – aka chopped livers – is a really versatile appetizer or party snack … and may even convert the non-liver-lover. 

I’m not gonna lie. Like most (all?) kids, I grew up hating liver. During the Jewish holidays, just the thought of that bowl of chopped liver, in all it’s grayish-brown glory, was enough to get me to fake a stomach flu. As I got older (and my mom, who is an excellent cook, took over Passover dinner from my culinarily-deprived Aunts) I came to really like it. Now I make my own (boozy) Passover version which is similar to this Pâté but with a much more rustic texture (and no butter of course).

If you think you don’t like liver, this is the dish that will likely change your mind. It’s rich and luxurious, silky and smooth, with sweetness from slow cooked onions and apple brandy. Stop making that face and try it!

Liver is also exceptionally nutritious, full of vitamins A and B12, and essential nutrients like folate and iron. That’s not why you should try it though. You should try it because it’s delicious and it’s time to experiment with grown-up things.

Pâté is also the most affordable, easiest, make-ahead appetizer (look at how much chicken livers cost!). Even fancy organic ones are a bargain. Serve it with crackers or baguette slices, and some tart cornichons, or even better, Spiced Pickled Grapes.

Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy

Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 cups
  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat (or use butter)
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter at room temperature, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
  • ¼ cup apple brandy (Calvados or Applejack)
  • 1 teaspoon course kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons - ¼ cup clarified butter, melted (optional)
  • Thyme sprigs (optional)
  1. Trim the livers of any excess fat and tough connective tissue. Dry them very well and set aside on a layer of paper towels.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the duck fat (or 2 tablespoons of butter). Add the liver in a single layer (do two batches if necessary) and cook until they are beginning to brown (3-4 minutes). Turn them and cook until the livers are just barely pink inside (2-3 minutes), Don't cook them too long or they'll be dry. Remove them to the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add the onions and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and lightly brown at the edges (7-10 minutes).
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the brandy into the skillet. Put back on the heat and simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid for about a minute then pour over the liver mixture. Add the salt. Process until mixture is very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. With the processor running, add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is very smooth and creamy. It may seem loose but it will stiffen up a lot in the fridge. Add pepper and any additional salt, to taste*. Pack into small jars or ramekins and smooth tops with a spatula or knife. When it's cool enough, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the film directly against the surface of the pâté.
  6. For longer storage, pour enough clarified butter to cover the top of each ramekin and add a decorative thyme sprig. Chill until the butter is firm and cover with plastic wrap or a lid.




Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy and Spiced Pickled Grapes

 Nerd Tips:

  • When food is warm you taste salt a lot more than when cold, so season a little more aggressively than you think you’d need to.*
  • You can soak the livers overnight in milk if you want to give the pâté a milder flavor. Just make sure to dry them very well before sautéing.
  • You can substitute regular brandy, cognac or even marsala wine.
  • For the best flavor, refrigerate overnight before serving. Let soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.
  •  Pâté will keep refrigerated for up to one week, or up to two weeks with the clarified butter seal.