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Chicken Liver Pâté with Red Wine-Poached Figs and Caramelized Spicy Walnuts

Posted By Vera On January 3, 2013 @ 8:54 pm In Hors d'oeuvres | 7 Comments

Since a long time ago this liver pâté recipe from an old issue of the Gourmet magazine has become a staple in our house. It makes a lot, but since it keeps so well and can be frozen I prefer to make a bigger batch. It’s nice to give a little ramekin to your guests to take home with them (it’s always appreciated and never declined).

I like to pair the pâté with sweet and spicy walnuts and figs poached in red wine. The taste combo is unbelievably good and the presentation is very attractive.

Makes an enormous amount of pâté (it fills over six 8-oz ramekins)

For the chicken pâté (the recipe is slightly adapted from the 2003 Gourmet):

  • 3 sticks (3/4-lb ) unsalted butter (it’s a lot of butter, but don’t freak out since it makes a lot of servings and some of the butter will be used for sealing the top of the pâté)
  • 2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pound chicken livers, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon or cognac
  • Artisan crackers and fresh thyme for serving


For the poached figs:

  • 2 cups dry red wine (I usually use Pinot Noir)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • peel of 1 lemon removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
  • peel of 1 small orange (or ½ large one) removed in strips the same way
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 12 black peppercorns, crushed
  • 12 oz dry figs (any variety can be used), tough stems cut off


For the caramelized nuts:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp (heaped) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves

Make the chicken pâté:

You will need about six 8-oz ramekins and a few smaller 4-oz ones for this batch.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, then remove the pan from the heat and let butter stand for 3 minutes. Skim froth from the butter and place the pot into a hot water bath (fill a skillet with hot water; this way you can easily warm up the water if needed) to keep the butter liquid while working on the pâté itself.

Melt 2 sticks of butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, allspice, salt, pepper, and livers and cook, stirring, until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes (do not overcook). Stir in bourbon or cognac and remove from the heat. Purée mixture in a food processor until smooth, give it a taste and add more salt and/or pepper if you wish. Divide the pâté between ramekins and smooth top. If using herb garnish, put a small sprig on top of the pâté. Spoon enough clarified butter over the pâté to cover its surface, leaving milky solids in the bottom of the pan. Chill the pâté until the butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours more

Chill the pâté until butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours more.

The pâté can be chilled up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to a month (wrap the ramekins well in foil before freezing).
Once the butter seal has been broken, the pâté keeps, its surface covered with plastic wrap and chilled, 1 week.

Make the poached figs:

Combine all the ingredients except the figs in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the figs, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the figs are softened, for about 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let the figs cool in the syrup. Once the figs are cool, remove them from the syrup with a slotted spoon and transfer into a lidded glass bowl.

Return the saucepan with the syrup to the stove and reduce it over medium-high heat. Strain the thickened syrup over the figs, stir to combine. Discard the peel and spices. Once the syrup is cool enough, cover the bowl and refrigerate up to a week. Bring the figs to the room temperature before serving.

Make the caramelized nuts:

Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line it with a silicone mat. Combine all the ingredients except the nuts in a bowl. Stir to blend. Add the walnuts, stir gently to coat. Transfer to the baking sheet.

Place a large piece of foil on a work surface. Bake the pecans for 5 minutes. Using a fork, stir the walnuts to coat them with melted spice mixture. Continue baking until the nuts are golden and the coating bubbles, about 10 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to the foil. Working quickly, separate the nuts with the fork. Cool. Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Sweet and Spicy Caramelized Pecans: http://www.bakingobsession.com/2007/10/29/sweet-and-spicy-caramelized-pecans/

[2] Vols-au-Vent: http://www.bakingobsession.com/2009/09/26/vols-au-vent/

[3] Appetizers for New Year Party: Caramelized Walnut and Stilton "Brains" and Parmesan-stuff...: http://www.bakingobsession.com/2010/12/30/appetizers-for-new-year-party-caramelized-walnut-and-stilton-brains-and-parmesan-stuffed-bacon-wrapped-dates/

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