This chicken liver pate is adapted from Julia Child’s recipe, as found in Julia Child’s Menu Cookbook – that thick slab of a cookbook, whose recipes are interspersed with vaguely tinnish colored photos and slightly sardonic, but never nasty, short essays on ingredients and cooking techniques. The book is a great introduction to Julia Child’s humor, and a wonderful resource for a variety of classic recipes – in this case, a rich, smooth chicken liver pate, deeply flavored with onion, tarragon, and thyme, and rounded out with a soft touch of wine.
The recipe originally calls for brandy or Madiera, but Riesling is a perfect match for this pate. Riesling, a white wine variety originally from Germany, is a flowery, lightly perfumed wine and, despite those descriptors, is a white wine that can stand up to strong flavors. Its sturdy balance of sugar and acidity makes the varietal a great partner for the rich pate, which means you should enjoy the rest of the bottle with the finished product, after sacrificing only a few small (but very tasty) tablespoons to the recipe.
Reducing Riesling with a bay leaf and whole clove concentrates the wine’s flavor and increases the aromatics, resulting in an even deeper, more complex-flavored pate.
Chicken Liver Pate with Riesling
2 medium onions, minced
16 tablespoons butters, divided (2 sticks)
1 pound chicken livers
6 tablespoons Riesling
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 cup cream cheese (8 ounces)
Spices: all spice, dried tarragon, crushed thyme
Salt and pepper
Saute the minced onions in four tablespoons of butter, over low heat, until the onions are softly wilted. Meanwhile, remove any fat and discolored spots from the chicken livers.
Heat the Riesling in a small saucepot with the bay leaf and clove, over medium heat. Let the wine simmer for a few minutes, until the liquid is reduced to about a third.
Add the chicken livers to the onion pan. Continue to cook the livers over medium-low heat, several minutes, until “stiffened.” That means, the outside of the livers should be brown, but the inside still tender and lightly pink. Once stiffened, add the spiced Riesling (having removed the bay leaf and clove first), turn up the heat, and let the mixture boil for a few moments.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender, and add the cream cheese and butter. Once blended, add a pinch of all spice, tarragon, thyme to taste, as well as a healthy dose of salt and pepper. The pate should be slightly overseasoned, as the taste will be slightly dulled once cooled.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, or individual ramekins. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve with crackers or toasted bread, and a big glass of Riesling.