November 22, 2017

Not your Bubby’s chopped liver


Growing up in a non Kosher Jewish household still some old school taboos you couldn’t get away from.  One of the biggies was; “No butter anywhere near meat”.  Not only was it against the rules, but you might get struck by a lightning bolt from above if you were to break it.  Just looking at a friend eating a ham sandwich with butter made me gag.  Liverwurst, American cheese and butter?  Forget it. It still makes me oogy.

Some years later, while eating at a friend’s restaurant in Madrid, I was introduced to a small ramekin of pate with toast points which appointed every table upon being seated.  The pate was delicious and he chuckled when I asked for this obviously expensive secret recipe. It was nothing more than chicken livers (discarded during prep) sauteed with copious amounts of butter, cognac and some onions and served with yesterday’s stale bread for toast points.  That’s it.  Well that, and a chef’s talent for turning bits and pieces of this and that into a four star dish.  I was hooked!  Who knew butter went with everything?  Well, the French did and my childhood friend of course, but it was new to me.  Life was getting better and you weren’t going to get struck dead for it.

It’s been a long while since I had that dish and it came to mind recently while trying out some “New Jewish Cuisine” ideas at home.  Family was coming for dinner and this was a good opportunity to play.

Chicken liver pate with butter and cognac

Approximately 2 cups

  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1 cup onions minced
  • 6 pitted prunes chopped
  • 1 lb chix livers trimmed, washed and patted dry.  Sprinkle with salt pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated Nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground Allspice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and prunes in butter till just softened.  Add livers and cognac.  Cook on medium heat till livers are pink in middle and the alcohol has mostly cooked out.  You definitely want liquid left in pan so don’t worry if it looks too wet. The butter in the recipe solidifies the pate upon cooling.

Pour contents of pan into food processor while still warm.  Puree with the allspice and nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Let cool on counter.

Spoon into ramekins or small dishes with cling wrap on the surface of the pate to prevent skin from forming.  Let rest in fridge 24 hrs to let flavors mingle and intensify.

Dark fruit compote

About 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups onion minced
  • 1 cup pitted prunes chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme stripped off stems
  • 1/2 cup water or more
  • 1oz sweet vermouth
  • salt to taste

In large non stick skillet combine onions, prunes, and thyme with water and sweet vermouth.  You want just enough water to almost cover the mixture.  Bring to hard boil (uncovered) and reduce till liquid is 2/3 reduced.  Lower heat to simmer and slowly stir mixture till dark and rich.  Mixture should be dark and jam like consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Let cool in ramekin or small dish with cling wrap on surface.


Serve pate with dark fruit compote, toast points or good fresh bread, Dijon mustard and flaky sea salt.  It’s heady stuff so a little goes a long way.

PS: My mom loved it, even more than grandma’s.