- 1 - 1 1/4 pounds chicken liver
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-stick)
- 1/2 cup shallots minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 anchovy filets
- 1/2 cup Marsala
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Inexpensive, luxurious and dangerously easy to make, pâté has come back into fashion. This is a good thing, because I’ve got a soft spot for pâté. But not just any pâté…pâté de foie de volaille (chicken liver pâté). Chicken liver makes, quite possibly, the perfect pâté. It does my heart good to see this rich, buttery and velvety smooth piece of perfection finally reappearing on restaurant menus, in even the trendiest of restaurants. This reappearance is for good reason – this stuff is absolutely delicious.
In this preparation we are going to be working with a three new ingredients; Marsala wine, anchovies and chicken liver. I’m considering chicken liver new because most of you have rarely done more than throw it out if you happen to buy a whole chicken.
Anchovies are the food industry’s not-so-secret secret weapon. One or two anchovy filets dissolved in a dish can be transformative. Think you don’t like anchovies? If you’ve ever craved a Caesar Salad or deep, rich seafood pasta, you like anchovies. Because they’re a concentrated source of glutamic and inosinic acid—two molecules responsible for triggering our sensation of savoriness—they’re irreplaceable for adding depth of flavor and a meaty backbone to, well, pretty much anything.
You can get anchovies at any mega-mart, typically right next to the canned tuna. Look for anchovies in jars packed in olive oil. Since you typically only use one or two filets at a time, one jar will last you a while.
Chicken liver can be found in just about any grocery store that sells chicken. You will typically find it sold in pint-size containers having between a pound to a pound and a quarter in each. I like picking chicken liver up from my butcher. Most of the time I get them when I’m picking up my meat for the week and am seldom charged for them – one of the perks of developing a relationship with your butcher. You need to trim the chicken livers of their connective tissue which can sometimes leave a bitter taste in pâté.
Marsala wine is a fortified wine from Sicily probably best known for the signature dish, “Veal Marsala.” A fortified wine is a wine to which a distilled spirit, usually brandy, is added raising the alcohol content to between 17% and 21%. Probably the best known fortified wines are Port and Sherry. If you have never tasted a good fortified wine, you have no idea what you are missing. These wines offer a smooth and silky mouth feel along with the flavors and aromas of marzipan, citrus, pipe tobacco, caramel, nutmeg, chocolate, walnut and liquefied butterscotch. Cooking with fortified wines introduces a this full palate of tastes to food. It is no wonder that “Veal Marsala” is one of the most recognized dishes in the Italian canon.
For cooking, you want a dry Marsala. Look for a Marsala that is 2 -4 years old. Because Marsala is fortified, it will stay good for quite a while after it is opened. But if your house is anything like mine, a bottle of Marsala seldom sits for long.
I like to serve pâté molded in a loaf. Because your pâté will be a little loose after processing it, simply lining your mold with plastic wrap prior filling it makes un-molding a snap. I like serving pâté with thinly cut rounds of a good baguette. I spread the rounds out on a baking sheet and place them in a 250 degree over for 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp.
- Trim any fat or connective tissue from the chicken liver and discard.
- Place a heavy sauté pan over a medium-high heat until it reached 350 degrees. Drops of water dropped on the bottom of your sauté pan will bounce at approximately 350 degrees.
- Once you pan reaches temperature, add 2-tablespoons of butter. You want to let the butter brown, but not burn, about 2 – 4 minutes.
- Add the shallots and sauté for 1 minute making sure they do not take on any color.
- Add chicken liver to the pan spacing them out in an even layer. Lightly salt and pepper the liver.
- Make sure the liver browns on the first side, about 2 – 4 minutes, turn them over to brown the other side.
- Once browned, add the capers, thyme, garlic, and anchovy filets and sauté another minute.
- Add Marsala wine and reduce until nearly all the liquid had evaporated then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Cube the remaining butter and place in a food processor with the liver mixture and heavy cream and process at high speed, occasionally scraping the sides down, until the mixture is creamy throughout. Taste for salt and add more as needed.
- Pack into a mold lined with plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Un-mold and serve.