I’ve always been a big fan of using chicken liver, hearts and gizzards in cooking. I like their unembellished appearance and enduring humbleness, and I am in love with what they represent to me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: I grew up in a time when every bit of meat was much appreciated, and getting hold of a small pack of chicken liver was a reason for celebration. I remember my mom and my aunt chopping them finely and using them to make a “diluted” meat dish, made up of a small amount of meat, a whole lot of bread, some water to bind it all together, and very few spices. I grew up with the idea that chicken liver was an expensive delicacy, and that you could only eat it on special occasions.
Upon moving to the UK I noticed that the Brits’ view of chicken liver was fundamentally different from mine: I could hardly find this product at the grocery store, and when I did find it, the low demand made the liver very cheap compared to the other meats on sale. Chicken liver was considered too small to bother with – in fact, according to a TV documentary I watched in the UK, some people only used the breasts of the fresh chicken, and threw everything else away, including the thighs and the drumsticks.
My love of chicken liver resurfaced once we arrived in Chicago. I found it in good supply at the local “fresh market” stores, and I’ve been back to cooking it ever since. I like to fry it quickly – it is very tender, and it doesn’t need a lot of cooking. I also like to make a chicken liver paté, using a recipe in which I have incorporated suggestions from both my mom and my mother-in-law. I like this recipe because it does not involve frying the liver. Instead, you boil it gently alongside shredded carrots and root celery, which will give the liver an edge of extra flavor. Before boiling it, I like to soak the liver in milk for about half an hour – this adds extra moisture to the liver and makes its flavor less sanguine.
1lb chicken liver
2 cups milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 medium carrot
1/4 celery root
1 medium cucumber
A few peppadew peppers – alternatively, you can use roasted pickled peppers
1/2 French bread
Handful chopped parsley or chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Wash the chicken liver and put it in a bowl along with the milk. Let it soak for half an hour. In the meantime, shred the carrot and the celery root.
When time is up, take the liver and the shredded vegetables and put them in a saucepan full of water. Bring the water to boil over a low heat. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. The liver will cook very quickly.
Take the pan off the heat. Take the liver out of the water slowly and carefully. The liver will be very tender and it will likely break down easily. Put the liver in a bowl and let it cool down.
Take 1/2 stick unsalted butter and put it in the microwave for about 40 seconds, or until it has melted completely.
Put the chicken liver and the melted butter in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then blend an additional 10-20 seconds. Remove the paté from the blender and put it in a bowl. If you want, now you can add a handful of chopped parsley or chopped cilantro. Mix well with a spoon and put the bowl in the refrigerator.
In the meantime, cut the French bread into 1in slices. Put the sliced bread on the preheated grill and grill for about 1 minute. You want to get nice golden brown grill marks on both sides of the bread.
Remove the bread off the grill and let it cool off. Wash the cucumber and cut it into slices. Drain the peppadew peppers/roasted pickled peppers and cut them into medium-sized squares.
Take the bowl with the chicken liver paté out of the refrigerator. Arrange the grilled bread on a plate and put a teaspoon of paté on top of each slice. Decorate with slices of cucumber and pieces of peppadew peppers/roasted pickled peppers. Sprinkle extra chopped parsley/cilantro on top. Serve chilled.
This homemade chicken liver paté is a tasty appetizer, which you can decorate and serve in a variety of ways. I like to add sliced cucumber for its vibrant color and crunchy texture, and peppadew/pickled peppers for an extra layer of sharp flavor. The addition of chopped parsley/cilantro to the paté is optional, yet I highly recommend it because it brings in a freshness and lightness I really enjoy. Before coming to the US I had heard of cilantro, but had never used it. Nowadays I use it in many of my recipes, and this is one of the many ways in which my cooking was shaped by the experience of living in the Windy City.