Pâté. A small word with many accents and assumptions. I think just the word makes most people think of something fussy. Pâté is not a fancy word in Romania. In fact, pâté is considered to be a quite rustic food. This is the case throughout Europe, where pâté finds it’s origins in humble peasants’ ingenuity and creativity. In North America pâté finds it’s origins in Europe. Probably has something to do with all the pomp.
If you can believe it, I didn’t realize pâté was fancy until well into my 20s. It was such a common feature on my family’s breakfast table that it never occurred to me. it was so common, in fact, that we took it camping. Earlier in our relationship Bogdan and I would go camping every summer with a big group of friends. Naturally, I packed pâté for an easy breakfast (obvious choice). You can imagine the reactions. That’s when I realized pâté was fancy. It was on the same camping trip that I also brought taramosalata, a Greek fish roe spread that’s usually described on the jar as “Greek style caviar spread”. I don’t think our friends will ever forget the summer we brought pâté and caviar camping.
For the sake of accuracy, I think what we were eating when I was growing up was not actually pâté in the French sense but liverwurst in the much less fancy Eastern European sense. In any case, in Romanian we called it pateu so I always thought pâté was nbd. I don’t think the distinction has anything to do with ingredients. French pâté is often made from chicken or goose liver, but it isn’t exclusively so. Likewise, central and eastern European pâtés can be made from a variety of ingredients from poultry liver to pork, beef, and even seafood.
So, the point I was going to make is this: if you want to buy pâté in the French sense in stores, it usually has a high price tag to match the fancy assumptions. Cast those assumptions aside because pâté is not only not fancy, but it’s so easy to make and will cost very little. It’s as easy as whizzing up some cooked liver and aromatics in a food processor. The recipe is adapted from one in The Food of the World by Murdoch Publishing. I added truffle oil and upped the thyme.
I really recommend making it ahead and not trying it until it’s been refrigerated. Warm pâté is pretty unappetizing. I sealed it with a layer of clarified butter so it keeps longer. The flavours continue to develop and are at their peak about 24 hours after. This pâté keeps in the fridge for about a week but you’ll know it’s past its prime if it begins to taste slightly bitter. As for serving, pictured here is thinly sliced and toasted ciabatta loaf.
1 lb / 500 grams chicken livers
80 ml / 1/3 cup brandy
1 whole onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 oz / 90 grams unsalted butter
2 TBSP chopped thyme
60 ml / 1/4 cup whipping cream
1.5 TBSP truffle infused olive oil
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp for me)
2 oz / 60 grams melted clarified butter (to seal)
Wash and trim chicken livers. Put in a bowl with the brandy and allow to marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
When the liver is finished marinading, melt butter in a pan over low heat.
Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is transparent (about 3-5 minutes).
Increase heat to medium-high and add livers and thyme. Sauté until they change colour to brown and there’s no more pink or red in their centers (you can break them apart to see).
Pour contents of pan in a food processor and add cream, truffle oil, and salt.
Blend until very smooth.
Pour the pâté into a storage container (I used glass tupperware) and smooth down as flat as you can with a spatula. Pour clarified butter over the pâté, cover and refrigerate.