Chicken Liver Parfait. The finest, smoothest and richest pâté known to man. People love ordering it at high end restaurants, but no one wants to make it at home. Up until recently, I wouldn’t want to either, because it is traditionally a very labor-intensive dish. After all, the word ‘parfait’ in French simply means ‘perfect’, and shouldn’t perfection always be really hard to achieve?
Well, no. Not if you have a Vitamix. I wanted to see if I could do the whole thing in the blender, and after some experimentation, I hit on the perfect recipe and technique.
To put this in context, when I learned to make it some 14 years ago, the process involved cleaning the livers, soaking them in milk, blitzing them in a food processor, passing the whole thing through a sieve (or in my case wringing it through cheese-cloth by hand!), slowly baking it in a terrine set in a water-bath in the oven, chilling it, turning it out, slathering it with butter, and chilling it again. It was a lot of work.
My way takes less than 30 minutes, the results are incredible, and it’s so easy it almost feels like cheating. No baking, sautéing, squeezing, soaking or sieving, and hardly any washing up. You will need a Vitamix, a set of digital scales, and a little faith.
Chicken Liver Pâté
These are the basic ingredients and here is the method:
8 oz chicken livers
8 oz Madeira
6 oz unsalted butter
2 oz heavy whipping cream
Large sprig of thyme
1 garlic clove
.3 oz, or 1 teaspoon and a pinch of kosher salt
When I write recipes, I always work them out by weight (for accuracy), and if possible, I try to get them to fit a certain ratio. Ratios make it easy to scale the recipe up or down. You can see my recipe here is just 4 parts liver and Madeira, 3 parts butter, 1 part cream, etc.
We start by rinsing the livers under the cold tap to remove the blood. Traditionalists recommend soaking them in milk for a few hours to remove bitterness, and you might want to do this, but I don’t think it’s really necessary.
The next step is cleaning the livers by removing the sinewy bits that connect the lobes. You can see them in the middle here.
Pinch the middle bit, or pin it down with a knife and use your fingers to separate the sinew from the meat.
This step is to ensure a smooth final texture. It should only take a few minutes, and you should do it, but the Vitamix is so powerful, I actually skipped this step last time, and it turned out just fine.
Weigh out 8oz of cleaned livers. In a saucepan, weigh 8oz of Madeira, a thinly sliced garlic clove and picked thyme leaves.
This is where we reduce our alcohol and other seasonings to concentrate the flavor. I want to stress at this point, that this is a bare-bones recipe, and you should feel free to experiment and make it your own – you could use Port and Madeira, an extra shot of Cognac, a diced shallot, sage, white pepper, allspice… all of these would be good. The most important thing is the ratio, so get the pan on the stove and boil vigorously until it is reduced by ¾. You should be left with 2 oz, and you can pour it back into a little container on the scales to check. (You don’t have to do it in a tiny saucepan and set it on fire, but it does make for a nice photo.)
When it is reduced, melt the butter and cream together in a microwave or pan so they are warm and liquefied. In the Vitamix jug, combine the livers, Madeira reduction, and a splash of the butter/cream mixture.
The next part of the recipe happens very quickly, so be prepared. We are going to blend it on high speed for a few minutes to cook the livers, then blend in the rest of the butter/cream, and that’s it.
I always thought that cooking in a Vitamix was a bit like frying an egg on your car’s engine block. Sure, it’s possible, but it can’t be very efficient, can it? It turns out cooking in a Vitamix is extremely efficient, and the livers are cooked through in about 2-3 minutes.
Ideally, you should check the temperature using a digital probe. 150f-155f is perfect. If you don’t have a digital probe, don’t worry. As the mixture cooks, you will begin to see steam coming off it. Stop the motor, scrape down the sides, and blend for another minute. Stop again, taste it… if it is nice and piping hot, it is cooked. Pour in the rest of the butter/cream, the salt, and blend until smooth. Taste it again. It should feel just a little too salty when it’s hot, but that means it will be perfect when chilled down. Pour into ramekins, or any vessel of your choice, then chill in the fridge.
While that’s chilling, you might as well make a tasty chutney to serve with it.
This is just what I had in the pantry. Granny Smith apple, onion, raisin, brown sugar and no-frills white vinegar. To make things extra simple, the ratio here is just equal parts of everything, in this case, four ounces of each, finely chopped. ow simple is that? Just sweat the onion with some oil and a pinch of salt for a few minutes to soften, then add all the other ingredients and reduce on medium heat until thick, maybe 20 minutes. Chill in the fridge.
After a few hours the pâté will be set.
I’m not sure a picture can give a real sense of the texture, but trust me, it is incredible. Sinfully rich, and yet light as a feather. It doesn’t just melt in the mouth, it explodes on the palette and disappears, leaving you wondering, did that really just happen? Am I dreaming? I should probably eat some more just to make sure.
This recipe will serve 4-6 people as an appetiser, or one person over the course of an afternoon if there is no one around to stop you eating the stuff. The flavor improves after a day or two in the fridge, if you can wait that long. Serve it to your guests with the chutney and some buttery toasted baguette slices, and don’t tell anyone how easy it was to make.
For more tips on making delicious food that doesn't need to be complicated, check out The Chopping Block's Simple French Food hands on cooking class coming up on:
And for other creative ways on using your Vitamix (which is available for purchase in our stores), check out my blog on creating flavorful purées that you can freeze and have ready at any time and my post on making ice cream in a Vitamix.