Soak Them in Cold Starchy Water

This recipe is classic French/European recipe for chicken liver pate, except for the first step with soaking livers in starchy ice bath. Most recipes include soaking livers in milk. “It is often said that milk improves the taste, purges blood, lightens the color, or affects some other property of the meat.” (“Modernist Cuisine” Nathan Myhrvold, p. 147) Soaking lean proteins in cold water (or flavored liquids) mixed with starch is “velveting”, a technique used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking. I’ve heard about it first from my Japanese friend and then found more in Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.

“Prawns, fish, chicken and vegetables placed in plain or slightly salted water take up water. This is extremely desirable in some instances to make up for the water lost during the cooking. Prawns become plump almost visibly when placed in water, and when these are cooked, they actually become crunchy. Fish and chicken swell slightly, and remain tender when they are subsequently sautéed. Vegetables regain their original crispiness, fill out and straighten.”

“The [thin starchy] velvet coat protects the flavor and texture of the food when it is placed into hot oil or water.”

Overcooking livers is the most common mistake. It makes their texture dry and sandy. Soaking livers in cold starchy water makes it more difficult to overcook them and is a big help for beginners.

The rest of the recipe is basic, with well known steps you can find in many other recipes for chicken liver pate. Let’s talk about little details, that are often left out.

Choose Them Pale

I’ve been craving for chicken liver pate for the last few weeks and cooked it a number of times. Many of my guests had a chance to taste it on a slice of fresh French baguette. Some of them asked me the same question — why is it so pale? Because, the best tasting chicken livers are pale! In the U.S., we rarely have a chance to choose them — they are sold in closed white containers. But if you do have a choice, pick those that are pale.

Make Them Tipsy

Is adding alcohol critical for the chicken liver pate? No, it’s optional. But it does add some goodness to it, if the alcohol — brandy, cognac, whiskey, scotch, calvados, bourbon, port, sherry, etc. — is high quality.

Other Considerations

Leeks are my favorite choice for onions, but they can be substituted with any other kind of your choice. It is important to sauté them until completely soft and sweet. In case of regular onions, I’d suggest caramelizing them for extra sweetness.

The amount of butter is variable and can be adjusted to taste. More butter makes the texture more firm (when cold) and the taste more delicate (or diluted). Always go for the best butter you can afford.

Chicken Liver Pâté | Terrine de Foies de Volaille

Prep Time8 hrs
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time16 hrs 5 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, Eastern European, European, French
Keyword: chicken, cream, French, liver, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, recipe, spread
Servings: 9 4 oz jars


for pate

  • 2 lb chicken livers trimmed
  • 8 oz butter cold, cubed
  • 1/2 cup leeks white part, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic diced
  • 2 tsp thyme fresh, chopped
  • 2 tsp marjoram fresh, chopped
  • 2 tsp sage fresh, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 1/4 tsp allspice freshly ground, optional
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg freshly ground, optional
  • 4 tbsp scotch optional

for soaking chicken livers

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 quart ice
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


for soaking chicken livers

  • In a big bowl, mix cold water, ice, starch, and salt. Add chicken livers, mix, and refrigerate overnight.

for pate

  • Drain livers.
    Chicken livers
  • Trim all connective tissues and blood vessels. Cut livers to equally sized pieces.
    Trimmed chicken livers
  • Slice, wash, an drain leeks. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and sauté leeks on medium heat until soft and sweet. Peel and dice garlic, stir it in at the end of cooking leeks. Transfer to a blender jar.
    Leeks for flammkuchen
  • Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and sauté chicken livers on high heat. Season them with salt and pepper (and other spices if using them).
    Cooking chicken livers
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until livers are cooked, but still soft and juicy inside with a little bit of pink juices when cut open. Flambé with scotch and transfer to a blender jar.
    Cooked chicken liver doneness
  • Prepare clean jars and lids. Blend mixture in a blender until smooth for about 1 minute. Add cold cubed butter (to prevent overcooking) and blend on low speed for another 30 sec or just until completely emucified. Transfer the pate into the jars while it is still warm — it makes it easier to avoid air bubbles trapped in the pate. Fill the jars to the top and close the lids. Refrigerate pate until firm, for at least 2 hours, before serving.
    Chicken liver pate
  • Serve with fresh crusty bread, preferably baguette, as a spread in a jar. It can also be served piped on sliced baguette and served as ready to eat appetizers.
    Culinary bag with piping tip
  • In case of serving it piped on slices of bread, play with different toppings — fresh thyme, crushed pink peppercorns, gourmet finishing salts are among the most popular.
    Chicken Liver Pate
Chicken Liver Pate